While presenting his cabinet to President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi on Saturday, Berlusconi announced he would keep Gianfranco Fini, head of the conservative National Alliance Party, as his foreign minister, and that he had chosen former economy minister Giulio Tremonti as his deputy prime minister.

Berlusconi himself will be sworn in later in the day.

Berlusconi received the mandate to govern during a meeting with President Azeglio Ciampi on Friday, only two days after he quit as prime minister in a power struggle with his coalition allies.

With his reconstituted government, Berlusconi is aiming to improve his sagging popularity and remain in power until the next election, due in mid-2006.

He also announced the formation of a new ministry - Development and Territorial Cohesion - under Gianfranco Micciche, the former deputy economy minister. The entire government was to be sworn in at about 6pm (1600 GMT), said Gaetano Gifuni, an official at the president's Quirinale Palace.

Confirmation vote

Berlusconi said he would present his list of ministers to the speakers of both houses of parliament, where he will face a confirmation vote next week, the news agency Ansa reported.

If Berlusconi succeeds, he will avoid early elections that his centre-right coalition could expect to lose. With Italians concerned about the economy and largely opposed to Italy's involvement in Iraq, polls have suggested that the centre-left bloc would win if elections were held now.

Berlusconi resigned on Wednesday, giving in to demands by his allies that he step down and form a new cabinet - a technique used by several Italian prime ministers in the past to strengthen faltering coalitions.

Berlusconi, who likes to portray himself as a new-style politician, had originally dismissed it as an old trick of Italian politics. With one year to go until the election, he was hoping that his four-year-old government would be the first since the second world war to serve the full term.