ROME (AP) – Premier Silvio Berlusconi indicated Saturday he was ready to resign after long denying electoral defeat, saying a Cabinet meeting expected to make his departure official was scheduled for Tuesday.

Berlusconi did not directly say that he would hand his resignation to Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. But, asked when he would step down, he replied, “The Cabinet meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday,” and added he would soon go to see Ciampi.

Even though Italy’s top court certified center-left former premier Romano Prodi’s razor-thin victory in the lower house of parliament after April 9-10 elections, Berlusconi, a billionaire media mogul, denied his loss and vowed to keep up his fight through legal challenges.

Prodi could formally take over the Italian government as early as next week, although the process could last far longer.

The incoming prime minister won his first parliamentary battle on Saturday when his candidates were elected speakers of the two houses of parliament despite bitterly fought races and days of tensions.

Candidate Franco Marini won the Senate presidency in the fourth round of voting after a race against former Christian Democrat premier Giulio Andreotti, the nominee of Berlusconi’s coalition.

Prodi’s candidate, veteran communist leader Fausto Bertinotti, also won the presidency in the lower house.

“I am very, very happy,” Prodi was quoted as saying by the ANSA news agency. “We have settled in.”

AP-ES-04-29-06 1355EDT

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