Berlusconi to resign after parliament adopts reforms

Berlusconi has said he will step down once the measures he promised to the European Union are adopted in a session starting at 1700 IST, after market turmoil raised fears that Italy could drag Europe into an unprecedented crisis.

A cabinet meeting at which Berlusconi could announce the resignation is  scheduled for 1230 IST after the parliament votes. The prime minister would then have to formally submit his resignation to Italy's head of state.

There is little grief among ordinary Italians over the demise of Berlusconi, with latest polls giving him an approval rating of just 22 per cent, but he did earn at least one tribute from counterpart and friend Vladimir Putin.

The Russian prime minister and likely future president saluted Berlusconi as "one of Europe's greatest politicians", referring to him as "one of the  last Mohicans.

"That he was in power was an undoubted good for Italy," he added.

But many in the international community disagree and will be glad to see the back of the scandal-tainted premier who increasingly became the object of criticism from Italian companies who said he had turned the country into a joke.

The latest cover of The Economist, a news weekly that has had a long-running feud with Berlusconi since declaring him "unfit to lead Italy" in 2001, carried a photo of Berlusconi preening himself with the headline: "That's all, folks."

His most likely replacement is former EU commissioner Mario Monti, a 68-year-old economist who built a formidable reputation as a trust-busting bureaucrat in Brussels, but has no experience in political office.

Monti is expected to be nominated by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano to form a new government after Berlusconi's resignation.

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