Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi gives thumbs-up at the Senate in Rome
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi gives thumbs-up at the Senate in Rome, December 13, 2010. Photo by AP
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Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he would not run again when his term expires in 2013 and nominated Justice Minister Angelino Alfano as his successor to lead the centre right into the next election.

In an interview with the daily La Repubblica published on Friday, the 74-year-old premier, who is fighting allegations of corruption and of paying for sex with an under-aged prostitute, repeated his intention to stand aside from official duties.

"Absolutely not," he said, when asked whether he would stand again. "The candidate for premier on the centre right will be Alfano. If I could, I would give it up now."

Berlusconi has made similar remarks on a number of occasions recently and has already named the 40-year-old Alfano, appointed earlier this month as secretary-general of the ruling People of Freedom party, as his successor.

"I will campaign and I will help Angelino. I will act as 'patron'. I will try to build the EPP (European People's Party) in Italy. But at 77 years of age, I can't be prime minister."

He also ruled out any bid to become president of Italy, saying he believed the position as head of state should go to Gianni Letta, his chief of staff and most trusted aide.

Berlusconi dismissed concerns that allies, including his often fractious coalition partners in the pro-devolution Northern League, would reject Alfano as the new leader of the centre right.

"Why not, I've already spoken about it. I think everyone agrees," he said.

Berlusconi's government has been struggling in recent months, slipping in the opinion polls and suffering sharp losses in local elections and referendums.