ROME, NOV. 14 -- Prime Minister Giovanni Goria today handed in the resignation of his 15-week-old government, which fell apart when the small Liberal Party withdrew from the coalition over an economic policy dispute.
Goria, a Christian Democrat who formed a government July 28, handed in his coalition's resignation to President Francesco Cossiga at the Quirinale Palace.
A palace statement said Cossiga reserved his decision on whether to accept the resignation and asked Goria to take care of outstanding government business, standard practice on such occasions.
Goria's government, which lasted 109 days, consisted of Christian Democrats, Socialists, Republicans, Social Democrats and Liberals.
The palace statement did not say what Cossiga would do next, but Goria told reporters it is now up to Cossiga to begin consultations to resolve the crisis.
Political sources said talks could begin as early as Sunday but would most probably wait until Monday, when most political parties have scheduled executive meetings to discuss the crisis.
The sources said Cossiga would likely ask Goria to try to succeed himself, either at the head of an identical five-party coalition or a four-party coalition without the Liberals.
The crisis became inevitable last night when the Liberals, who hold only one Cabinet ministry and 14 parliamentary seats, withdrew because of differences over the revised 1988 budget. Goria would still have a majority if the new government excluded the party.
The Liberals said the revised budget, which aimed for a public sector deficit ceiling of $83.7 billion, broke an agreement on a government program that included tax cuts.
The party's decision to withdraw from the coalition was a surprise because a meeting of coalition leaders yesterday appeared to have averted a crisis.