Italy's Berlusconi announces fresh run for PM

Silvio Berlusconi today ended weeks of speculation by announcing he would run again for the job of prime minister, the post he was forced out of last year.

"I am running to win," the leader of the right-wing populist People of Freedom (PDL) party told journalists in Milanello, near the northern city of Milan.

He had called a meeting of the PDL for tomorrow and had opened talks with his former coalition allies the Northern League to try to agree on a joint campaign backing a single candidate, he added.

"When I did sport, when I worked and studied, I never entered into a competition to be well-placed but always to win," he said.

"I hope to be in a position to be able to explain to Italians that there is a need for a force that enjoys a majority to change the rules of the constitution."

A general election is expected to be held in March or April of next year but the precise date has not been set, nor is there any agreement on a reform of an election law widely seen as unsatisfactory.

Berlusconi's announcement confirmed comments by leading members of his party and strong hints that he had himself made over the past few days.

In October, he had said that he would not run again for the premiership. On Wednesday evening however, the 76-year-old media tycoon said he had been assailed by requests to return to the field as soon as possible."

This will be his sixth bid to become prime minister, a post he has already held three times over a political career spanning two decades.

A parliamentary revolt forced him from office in November last year as he was fighting a series of scandals that had damaged his reputation and, said critics, the country's standing. The financial markets had reacted so badly that Italy was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.

Mario Monti took over as prime minister at the head of an unelected government of technocrats. He set about introducing a policy of tax rises and austerity measures to get the economy under control.

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