Berlusconi rules out top job

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Silvio Berlusconi has insisted he won’t be premier again if his conservative party, now trailing in opinion polls, wins Italian elections next month.

The media mogul yesterday told an interviewer on Sky TG24 TV that his political heir and former justice minister, Angelino Alfano, is his choice to head Italy’s next government. For months, Mr Berlusconi has been coy about whether he wants a fourth term as premier. “If we win, the premier will be Angelino Alfano,” Mr Berlusconi said.

Front-runner in polls testing sentiment for the 24-25 February elections is centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani. But it appears unlikely he’ll win enough votes to govern alone.

A potential coalition partner is caretaker premier Mario Monti, who is heading a centrist coaltion and trailing both Mr Bersani and Mr Berlusconi in polls.

Mr Berlusconi is among political leaders scrambling to line up “clean” candidates for the elections, eliminating from the ballot politicians who are under investigation or have lower-court convictions for corruption or ties with organised crime.

These include Marcello Dell’Utri, who has been convicted of Mafia association.