Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti Resigns

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti has resigned, paving the way for a general election next year.

Mr Monti, a former European Commissioner, had been appointed last year to lead a technocratic government tasked with saving Italy from a worsening financial crisis.

He won plaudits in Europe for passing much-needed reforms but his austerity measures have also earned him the opposition of many Italians.

The prime minister held his last cabinet meeting on Friday and handed in his resignation to President Giorgio Napolitano.

Earlier in the day, the Italian parliament had approved the 2013 budget drawn up by his government.

Mr Monti called his 13-month tenure "difficult but fascinating".

"The work we did ... has made the country more trustworthy, besides more competitive and attractive to foreign investors," he told diplomats, who gave him a standing ovation.

"I hope that it can continue this way also in the next legislative session."

Mr Monti will give his year-end news conference on Sunday, when he is expected to announce whether he will participate in the election campaign.

The election is expected to take place in February. Mr Monti has not yet announced whether he will run.

Earlier this month, controversial politician and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi ended months of speculation, announcing he will try to become Italy's PM again.

Mr Berlusconi, 76, stepped down in disgrace last year as Italy was on the brink of financial disaster, and Mr Monti's government took over.