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November 12, 2011

Italian PM Nominee Called Careful, Reserved

Italy's Mario Monti, the highly respected international economist who will take the reins of Italian government, is widely described as careful and reserved -- the near polar opposite of Silvio Berlusconi, the flamboyant, jet-setting tycoon he would replace.

Mr. Monti, a 68-year-old technocrat, heads Milan's prestigious Bocconi University.  A former top European commissioner, he is to form a government tasked with containing the perilous debt crisis gripping the continent and battering global markets.  

He has received endorsements from a broad range of bankers, politicians and international analysts for his tenacity as a negotiator and his economic acumen, despite not having held elected political office.

Former Prime Minister Romano Prodi gave Mr. Monti his blessing in an interview with the left-leaning newspaper La Reppublica. Political analyst Franco Pavoncello, president of Rome's John Cabot University, said Sunday that some of Mr. Berlusconi supporters have balked at the prospects of a government led by Mr. Monti.  But he said even they understand that Italy is "at the stage where certain reforms have to be enacted in order to save the country from bankruptcy."

Mr. Monti was born in the northern Italian town of Varese. He graduated in 1965 from Bocconi University, long considered the training ground for Italy's economic elite.  He went on to study at Yale University under Nobel Prize-winning economist James Tobin, who had been an economic advisor to U.S. President John F. Kennedy.  Mr. Monti has headed Bocconi University since 1994, the year that media tycoon Berlusconi took office.

Mr. Berlusconi resigned Saturday, ending a reign marked by repeated allegations of official corruption, sex scandals and growing criticism for his failure to rein in Italy's massive debt.  After lunching with Mr. Monti on Saturday, Mr. Berlusconi was quoted as saying his expected successor would "work in the interests of the country."

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.