The Latest: Merkel cites eurozone as key to ties with Italy

ROME — The Latest on Italy's political crisis (all times local):

6:40 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is stressing the importance of upholding the eurozone's principles as Italy heads toward an early election.

Merkel was asked at a Berlin conference on Monday whether she's worried about political leaders' difficulty in forming the next Italian government. She answered: "We want to work with every government, but of course we also have principles inside the eurozone."

The chancellor didn't comment directly on the collapse of efforts to form a populist government in Italy or the appointment of economist Carlo Cottarelli to lead a politically neutral government until another election is held.

Recalling the election of left-winger Alexis Tsipras as Greek prime minister, Merkel recalled that in that case "there were also many questions on the table, but in the end we came together."

She said: "We must handle this task, because of course Italy is an important member of the European Union."

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6:00 p.m.

Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi says he's open to running for office in Italy's next parliamentary election as part of the same center-right bloc that won 37 percent of the vote March 4.

In a statement Monday, Berlusconi said he "can't imagine any other solution" than his Forza Italia party running alongside the right-wing League and the smaller Brothers of Italy party.

The League tried to form a populist government with the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement. Their coalition hopes were dashed Sunday when President Sergio Mattarella vetoed their choice for economy minister.

Berlusconi also says Forza Italia's lawmakers won't support a technical government headed by former International Monetary Fund official Carlo Cottarelli, who was tapped by the president Monday to be premier until the next election.

A tax fraud conviction prevented Berlusconi, who served three terms as premier, from running for office in March. A Milan court ruled this month that he is now eligible.

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5:05 p.m.

The head of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement is urging Italians to peacefully protest the president's decision to quash a proposed populist government.

In a Facebook Live video, Luigi Di Maio urged Italians to fly Italian flags and join a social media protest with the hashtag #ilmiovotoconta (My vote counts.) He says citizens should insist on their right to choose their leaders.

Di Maio said President Sergio Mattarella's decision to veto the economy minister proposed by the 5-Stars and League and instead ask a non-political, technical government to lead "was the darkest moment in the history of Italian democracy."

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2:50 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron is expressing his support for Italy's president after he scuttled what would have been Western Europe's first populist government and paved the way for a technocrat government to lead until a new election.

At a news conference in Paris on Monday, Macron said Italy was an important partner "that we respect and which we need for European projects as well as the bilateral relationship."

He offered his support to Italian President Sergio Mattarella, "who has a crucial task ahead: the institutional and democratic stability of his country —which he completes with a lot of courage and a great spirit of responsibility."

Mattarella asked economist Carlo Cottarelli to lead Italy after he vetoed on Sunday the economy minister picked by the 5-Star Movement and League. The two populist forces had hoped to form a coalition government.

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1 p.m.

The man tapped to head a neutral government in Italy after two populists failed in their bid is a former official at the International Monetary Fund who is a firm believer in the euro and in the necessity of Italy cutting its stubbornly high-debt load.

Carlo Cottarelli, an economist, has previous government experience under the short-lived center-left government of Enrico Letta, chosen to identify areas where government spending could be trimmed. He found 32 billion euros ($37 billion) in cuts, but left embittered when the government soon changed hands at the obstacles he found within the bureaucracy resisting cuts.

On Monday, after receiving the mandate to try to form a government, Cottarelli said his primary job was to guide Italy to a new election. In a bid to settle markets, he stressed that Italy's economy was growing, its public debt was "under control" and that he assured his government would prioritize "prudent" management of it.

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12:45 p.m.

Italy's new premier-designate Carlo Cottarelli says he will bring Italy to a new election as early as this fall if he doesn't win confidence votes in parliament.

President Sergio Mattarella tapped the economist and former International Monetary Fund official on Monday to run a technocratic government after he scuttled the euroskeptic government of the 5-Star Movement and the League. Mattarella vetoed their choice for economy minister Sunday night.

In his first remarks Monday, Cottarelli said he would guide a politically "neutral" government that would lead Italy to new elections. Both the 5-Stars and the League have signaled they would deprive a Cottarelli government of their votes in Parliament, meaning his would be a caretaker government.

Cottarelli said in such a case, the government's principal job "would be the ordinary administration of government and to accompany the country to elections after the month of August."

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12:30 p.m.

Italy's president has formally asked economist Carlo Cottarelli to try to form a government after quashing the hopes of the euroskeptic 5-Star Movement and the League to form Western Europe's first populist government.

President Sergio Mattarella turned to the former International Monetary Fund official to run a technocratic government until an early election can be held. Mattarella's office announced the president had given a mandate to Cottarelli to try to form a government after about an hour of consultations Monday.

Mattarella enraged the 5-Stars and League by vetoing their choice for economy minister on Sunday night, throwing Italy into a new round of political uncertainty more than two months after an election created a hung parliament.

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10:30 a.m.

The European Union's foreign policy chief says she has full confidence in the Italian president, who vetoed the proposed economy minister of what would have been Western Europe's first populist government.

Federica Mogherini says she's convinced that President Sergio Mattarella was serving the Italian people and the EU by forcing the end of the proposed 5-Star Movement-League government.

In a statement, Mogherini said that "I have full trust, as I believe all Italians have in the Italian institutions, starting with the Italian president. That is the guarantor of the Italian Constitution."

She continued: "I am confident that the Italian institutions and the president of the republic will prove to be as always serving the interests of the Italian citizens that by the way coincides also with the strength of the European Union."

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10:20 a.m.

Germany's deputy foreign minister says he hopes there will be a "stable, pro-European" government in Italy soon, but has acknowledged that his country is in no position to offer advice after its own long-drawn-out effort to form a new administration.

Michael Roth told reporters in Brussels that Italy, a founding member of the European Union, has always been a reliable and integration-friendly partner. He said that "we expect Italy to do justice to this proud tradition in the future."

Roth said he doesn't want to discuss the constitutional situation, but "we hope that there will be a stable, pro-European government in Italy without delay."

He added: "We in Germany should hold back somewhat with advice on forming a government. We needed six months to form a new government."

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9:20 a.m.

All eyes are on Italian President Sergio Mattarella after he vetoed the proposed euroskeptic economy minister of what would have been Western Europe's first populist government.

News reports said Mattarella would convene the former International Monetary Fund official, Carlo Cottarelli, to the presidential palace and ask him to form a technical government that can lead Italy until early elections.

Markets have largely welcomed Mattarella's decision to put an end to the proposed government of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and right-wing nationalist League, which had insisted on Paolo Savona as economy minister. Savona has questioned whether Italy should ditch the euro as its currency.

The spread of points between Italy's bonds and benchmark German bonds, which had grown alarmingly last week, fell early Monday.

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