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Berlusconi resigns: Italian prime minister steps down

Italy's prime minister of 17 years resigned Saturday.

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#14 — Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi —Facebook: 308,693; Orkut: 156. (JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN/AFP/Getty Images)

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi stepped down Saturday after the country's parliament voted to pass debt reforms, the Associated Press reported.

The resignation of Berlusconi, who was in office for 17 years, was expected Saturday following the vote, which marked the final act of his government.

As Italians learned the news of Berlusconi's resignation, they poured into the streets in front of the president's palace, rejoicing the end of the scandalous prime minister's career, the AP reported. A chorus of Handel's "Alleluia" was also sung by a few dozen singers. Some hecklers also chanted "Buffon! Buffon!" as Berlusconi's motorcade pulled out of his residence and into the presidential palace.

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The crowds in front of the presidental palace grew so unruly, Berlusconi was forced to leave secretly through a side entrance and return to his own residence, Reuters reported. Italians were seen singing, dancing and breaking open bottles of champagne.

Only a small group of Berlusconi supporters were demonstrating outside his residence, clearly outnumbered by his opponents, Reuters reported.

"This is something that deeply saddens me," the Italian news agency Ansa quoted Berlusconi as telling aides, Reuters reported.

The presidential palace press office broke the news of Berlusconi's resignation, CNN reported.

Berlusconi, 75, has been called on to resign for months as Italy's debt crisis has inched closer to the magnitude of the Greek euro zone crisis. Italy is Europe's third largest economy and came closer to the need of a bailout this week when interest rates on borrowed money soared to over 7.6 percent. When Ireland, Greece and Portugal reached 8 percent they were forced to seek international bailout, Reuters reported.

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Former European commissioner Mario Monti is still the top choice to take over for Berlusconi. However, Berlusconi's allies remain split over whether to support Monti, the AP reported. President Giorgio Napolitano is expected to hold consultations on Sunday to decide how to proceed.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/italy/111112/italian-prime-minister-silvio-berlusconi-resigns-reports