ROME - THE estranged former ally of Premier Silvio Berlusconi urged him to resign on Sunday for the good of the country and begin discussing a new government with a revised legislative agenda.

In a highly anticipated speech, Gianfranco Fini raised the stakes in his feud with Mr Berlusconi, seeking to put the pressure of determining the future of the current government back on the Italian leader.

Mr Fini repeatedly attacked Mr Berlusconi, who has been engulfed in a scandal over his ties to an underage Moroccan girl and alleged encounters with a prostitute. Mr Fini said he is still willing to be in an alliance with Mr Berlusconi to spare Italy early elections and bring parliament to the natural end of its term in 2013. But that would only happen, he said, if the premier agreed to certain conditions, like relaunching the economy and changing Italy's electoral law.

'We can't go on this way,' Mr Fini told supporters at a rally of his new party, Freedom and Future. 'This chapter is over - or it's about to be.' Mr Fini urged Mr Berlusconi to 'make the decision to offer his resignation'. 'The premier has the honour and the burden to say if he intends to open a new phase, with a new agenda and new program, discussing and taking note of other people's opinions,' Mr Fini told supporters.

'If he has the courage ... we'll do our part.' Otherwise, Mr Fini said, he would withdraw his minister and other Cabinet officials from the government, forcing Mr Berlusconi at the very least to a Cabinet reshuffle and further weakening his government.

Mr Berlusconi's allies dismissed the possibility of his resignation and vowed the government would continue to work as long as it enjoyed parliamentary support. A Berlusconi resignation would not necessarily mean early elections.

Berlusconi urged to resign