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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Italy's Premier Dini Announces Resignation

ROME -- Italian Prime Minister Lamberto Dini announced his resignation Thursday, opening the way for Italy's bitterly divided parliament to choose between a snap general election or a new government to enact key reforms.

In a brief speech to the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house, he said two days of debate had shown that the life of his government of unelected technocrats had reached its end.

"I therefore consider it my strict duty to report to the president of the republic ... and confirm my resignation," he said to applause.

Dini, a former central banker, offered to resign on Dec. 30 but President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro rejected the approach and sent him to parliament instead for a decision.

The debate showed agreement among Italy's rival blocs on the need for constitutional and electoral reform to give the country stability, but became bogged down over whether Dini's administration should stay or go.

Dini made his statement after a resolution submitted by media magnate Silvio Berlusconi's center-right Freedom Alliance urging the government to quit won backing from Marxists, boosting its chances of success in the event of a vote.

His decision to resign headed off a vote, thus avoiding defeat and maintaining his chances of being named by Scalfaro to try to form a new government.

Scalfaro, who was returning to Rome from a requiem service for former French president Fran?ois Mitterrand in Paris, now has no option but to accept the resignation of Dini's government, Italy's 54th since World War II.

Dini will remain a caretaker while Scalfaro holds consultations among senior institutional figures and political party leaders on the way forward for Italy.

The choices are between formation of a government with broad political support to plough through a long-term program of reform or, in the event of failure, a snap general election some three years ahead of schedule.

The two main blocs agree on the need for change to Italy's government and parliamentary system but are far apart on what those changes should be.

"One match is over," said Walter Veltroni, deputy leader of the center-left "Olive Tree" coalition, after Dini's announcement. "But another one is starting and it's much more complicated."

Dini's statement was a victory for Berlusconi's coalition, which, while divided over Italy's options for the future, was united in the view that unelected government had to end.

"We now have a situation that is envisaged under the constitution and is a whole lot clearer," said far-right leader Gianfranco Fini, Berlusconi's biggest coalition ally. He repeated his stand that the best way forward was an election.

Center-left parties in parliament had wanted Dini's government to stay for a few more months to oversee Italy's six-month European Union presidency, which began on Jan.1, and give parties time to explore prospects for a reform deal.