ROME, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Economist Mario Monti began talks Monday to form an emergency government in Italy to help avert a financial meltdown of the world's eighth-largest economy.
Monti's priorities are to execute reforms former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi reached with the European Union to slash Italy's massive debt, about 120 percent of the country's gross domestic product, and try to revive a moribund economy, ANSA reported.
Monti, a former European commissioner, was asked by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano to try to form a new government after Berlusconi resigned Saturday.
Talks with all parties likely will extend into Tuesday when Monti is expected to present a team of ministers and a government program, ANSA said.
"It is necessary to restore the health of the financial situation and return to growth, while paying attention to social equality," Monti, 68, said. "The country must win the challenge of coming back. We owe it to our children to offer them a future with dignity and hope."
Napolitano Sunday called on lawmakers to form a broad coalition to support the new prime minister.
The remarks were directed at Berlusconi's party, the People of Liberty, who had said their support for a transitional leader was contingent a quick call for national elections, The New York Times reported.
Berlusconi said he would remain active in politics.
"I want to say with great clarity to those who cheered at what they call my exit from the scene that, as of tomorrow, I'll double my efforts to improve Italy," he said in a video message Sunday.
Berlusconi said he resigned to prevent Italian shares and bonds from coming under attack on the financial markets. He appealed for unity to face a "crisis that was not born in Italy"referring to the debt crisis that began in Greece.
Italy's immediate needs include making good on $276 billion worth of bonds that will mature in April 2012.
That may seem far away, but Italian benchmark 10-year bonds spiked at 7.4 percent last week, a figure commonly considered unsustainable. Its debt load is already among the highest in Europe, the Times said.