Former premier Silvio Berlusconi has attacked the decision by Mario Monti to run in Italy's general elections and vowed to launch a probe into the 2011 fall of his own government and appointment of Mr Monti as Italy's premier.

Mr Berlusconi spoke out after Mr Monti announced he would head a coalition of centrist forces, businessmen and pro-Vatican forces in the February elections.

Mr Berlusconi said he never expected Mr Monti to renege on repeated assurances that he "wouldn't use the public prominence as head of a technical government for an ulterior presence in politics".

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He said the decision represented a "loss of credibility" for Mr Monti, a respected economist and former European commissioner. Mr Berlusconi said if he is elected premier he would immediately launch a parliamentary inquiry into the fall of his own government.

"There was a serious wound to democracy inflicted not just on us but on all Italians," Mr Berlusconi said.

Mr Berlusconi's People of Freedom party, beset by corruption scandals and still tainted by Mr Berlusconi's ill-fated last term, trails in the polls behind the centre-left Democratic Party.

The Democrats, headed by Pier Luigi Bersani, are expected to win the election with 30% of the vote.

Mr Monti was named by Italy's president to lead a technical government after Mr Berlusconi, hobbled by sex scandals, legal woes and defections from his party, was forced to resign in November 2011 amid Italy's slide into the eurozone's debt crisis.

Mr Berlusconi's party, parliament's largest, initially supported Mr Monti, backing tax rises, raising the retirement age and other unpopular reforms to restore Italy's financial credibility.

But earlier this month, Mr Berlusconi withdrew his party's support, accusing Mr Monti's government of leading Italy into a "spiral of recession". Mr Monti promptly resigned, forcing elections to be moved up by about two months.

European leaders made clear they wanted Mr Monti to bid for a second term.