Italian Deputy-Premier Matteo Salvini opens his arms at the Senate, in Rome, Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019. Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte on Tuesday announced his resignation, blaming his decision to end his 14-month-old populist government on his rebellious and ambitious deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini. (Ettore Ferrari/ANSA via AP)

The Latest: League's Salvini kisses crucifix as Conte speaks

August 20, 2019 - 12:04 pm

ROME (AP) — The Latest on Italy's government crisis (all times local):

6:45 p.m.

Italian League's leader and hard-line Interior minister Matteo Salvini has repeatedly kissed a rosary while sitting in the Senate next to Premier Giuseppe Conte, who was delivering a key speech in which he announced his resignation.

It wasn't the first time that the far-right leader pulled out a rosary in public, but his gesture on Tuesday seemed to be an open challenge to Conte, who in his address to senators accused Salvini of "religious insensitivity" for using "religious symbols for politics purposes."

During a later address to senators, Salvini fired back to Conte by saying: "I'll ask the Madonna for protection for as long as I live".

Conte has announced plans to tender his resignation later in the day, blaming Salvini for his decision to end his 14-month-old populist government with an "irresponsible" move.

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4:45 p.m.

Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy's right-wing League party, says he triggered a government crisis in the middle of the summer because he doesn't fear the prospect of an early vote.

Salvini addressed senators on Tuesday after Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte announced he will tender his resignation, putting an end to the populist government forged only 14 months ago.

Salvini said he would "do again everything I did ... I'm a free man and I don't fear Italians' judgment." Salvini has been maneuvering to become Italy's next leader as support for his party grows on his anti-migrant stance.

Earlier, Conte had blasted Salvini for his "irresponsible" move that has abruptly interrupted the work of the government. He added that Salvini has acted only to pursue his "personal interests" and capitalize on his soaring popularity.

Conte also stressed that a sudden government crisis puts Italy at risk of "political and financial instability."

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4 p.m.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte has announced his resignation, blaming his decision to end his 14-month-old populist government on his rebellious right-wing coalition partner.

He told senators on Tuesday he is handing in his resignation because his right-wing coalition partner, the League party led by Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, has decided to yank its support for the populist government.

Conte said he will go later Tuesday to officially inform Italian President Sergio Mattarella of his decision. Mattarella, as head of state, could ask Conte to stay on and try to find an alternative majority in Parliament, or accept his resignation and see if some other leader can forge an alternative coalition.

Failing that, Mattarella could dissolve Parliament, setting the stage for a new general election as early as October.

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