Italy's Meloni Tells President She Is Ready To Become Prime Minister

Italy's Giorgia Meloni told President Sergio Mattarella on Friday that she was ready to become prime minister and could swiftly form a new government despite tumult within her right-wing coalition.

Meloni, head of the nationalist Brothers of Italy party, met the president alongside her main allies -- Matteo Salvini, who leads the far-right League, and Silvio Berlusconi, founder of the conservative Forza Italia party.

"We are ready to form a government as quickly as possible," Meloni told reporters after the unusually short meeting, which lasted barely 15 minutes.

Mattarella is expected to call her back to his office later in the day to formally ask her to become prime minister and the new cabinet is likely to be sworn in over the weekend.

The conservative bloc won a commanding parliamentary majority at a Sept. 25 general election, with Meloni's party taking the most votes, putting her in pole position to become Italy's first female prime minister.

The new administration faces an array of daunting challenges, including a looming recession in the eurozone's third largest economy, rising energy bills and the Ukraine war.

The task of putting together the new team has proved much more turbulent than expected, drawing comparison with the political turmoil in Britain, with Berlusconi repeatedly undermining Meloni's authority since the election.

In a note he left in public view in parliament last week, the 86-year-old Berlusconi wrote that he found Meloni "overbearing... domineering... arrogant... offensive".

The veteran former prime minister set off a fresh firestorm this week when he told his lawmakers that he blamed Ukraine for the war with Russia and revealed that he had exchanged gifts and "sweet letters" with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Meloni subsequently issued a statement saying her administration would be firmly pro-NATO and pro-European. "Anyone who does not agree with this cornerstone cannot be part of the government," she said.

Berlusconi's right-hand man in Forza Italia, Antonio Tajani, is expected to be the next foreign minister. He flew to Brussels on Thursday for talks with EU allies and assured them his party condemned Russia's "unacceptable" invasion of Ukraine.

The crucial economy ministry post is expected to go to Giancarlo Giorgetti, the deputy head of the League and industry minister in the outgoing unity government headed by former central bank chief Mario Draghi.

Meloni will make her first set-piece speech to parliament next week and must win votes of confidence in both chambers before formally assuming full powers.