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Italian President Approaching Decision on New Premier

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    AP
    Italian Premier Matteo Renzi, center, arrives at the Quirinal presidential palace in Rome, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. Renzi addressed his bickering party Wednesday shortly before he was due at the Quirinal presidential palace to tender his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella.

    With a banking crisis adding urgency, Italy's president was wrapping up political consultations Saturday, including with Parliament's largest party, the Democrats, before picking a replacement for caretaker Premier Matteo Renzi.

    Included on President Sergio Mattarella's schedule of back-to-back meetings were delegations from the top two opposition forces, the populist 5-Star Movement of comic Beppe Grillo and the center-right Forza Italia party led by media mogul and former Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

    Opposition parties which Mattarella sounded out earlier this week pressed for elections. Renzi resigned on Dec. 7, following an embarrassing defeat for his proposed reforms in a referendum.

    Among those being touted as likely choices for Mattarella are Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, a staunch Renzi supporter, and Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan, an economist.

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    A former Berlusconi supporter, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, now Renzi's key coalition ally, conferred with Mattarella. He then told reporters that if necessary his centrists would be "very favorable" for a fresh mandate for Renzi, who is also Democratic Party leader.

    The crisis threatening long-troubled Italian bank Monti dei Paschi di Siena (MPS), which direly needs to raise new capital, piled on pressure for a new government.

    If private investors aren't found, the Italian government might have to bail out MPS.

    "It's evident that the banking front is one of the matters that makes it important to have a fully operative government" soon, said Enrico Zanetti, deputy economy ministry in Renzi's now caretaker government.

    Calls for quick elections keep rising from opposition leaders, including from the 5-Star Movement, which is keen on gaining the premiership for the first time.

    Mattarella would likely give the next premier the task of quickly guiding Parliament through approval of a new electoral law as well as solving the banking crisis.

    Financial markets and European Union partners are growing anxious over Italian banks laden with bad loans.