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Associated Press
Former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi smiles as he arrives at Milan's central train station, Italy, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. Italian Premier Mario Monti announced Friday he is heading a new campaign coalition made of up centrists, business leaders and pro-Vatican forces who back his "ethical" vision of politics, aiming for a second mandate in office if his fledging reform movement wins big in parliamentary elections. Monti was appointed premier 13 months ago after his scandal-plagued predecessor Silvio Berlusconi failed to stop Italy from sliding deeper into the eurozone debt crisis. He quit earlier this month after Berlusconi pulled his party's support from Monti's government, but is now continuing in a caretaker role until the next elections. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

ROME — Ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi sharply criticized the decision by Mario Monti to run in Italy's general elections and vowed Saturday to launch a parliamentary inquiry into the 2011 fall of his government and appointment of Monti as Italy's premier.

Berlusconi spoke out after Monti ended weeks of hedging and announced Friday he would head a coalition of centrist forces, businessmen and pro-Vatican forces running for office in Feb. 24-25 elections.

Berlusconi said he never expected Monti would renege on his repeated assurances that he "wouldn't use the public prominence as head of a technical government for an ulterior presence in politics."

He said the decision represented a "loss of credibility" for Monti, a respected economist and former European Commissioner, and said if he is elected premier he would immediately launch a parliamentary inquiry into the fall of his government.

Berlusconi's People of Freedom party, beset by local corruption scandals and still tainted by Berlusconi's ill-fated last term, trails significantly in the polls behind the center-left Democratic Party. The Democrats, headed by Pier Luigi Bersani, are expected to win the election with about 30 percent of the vote.