Berlusconi says he will call it quits as PM in 2013

"I may participate in the election campaign but at that time will interrupt my sacrifice," said the three-time prime minister. "I hope another leader emerges."

Berlusconi was speaking at an end-of-year press conference in Rome.

The 74-year-old billionaire politician became prime minister first in 1994 and has been elected a total of three times. However, as is common in Italy, governing coalitions on two occasions dissolved their alliances amid feuding, forcing the country to have early elections.

Berlusconi currently has a dangerously thin margin in the lower house of parliament after barely surviving a Dec 14 no-confidence vote in the lower house, which followed a break up with Gianfranco Fini, a powerful ally who is also the speaker of the lower house.

Fini subsequently formed a rival centre-right party after being kicked out of the ruling People of Liberty party he founded with Berlusconi. Fini and other critics have accused Berlusconi of conflicts of interest and hurting the government with corruption trials and sex scandals.

Berlusconi has since launched an appeal to other "moderate" members of parliament to join the ruling majority in an effort to bolster his government and avoid early balloting.

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