Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, seeking to prevent Italy from becoming the next victim of Europe's debt crisis, vowed to balance the budget and impose austerity faster than planned as investors flee Italian bonds.

The moves may pave the way for the European Central Bank to try to bring down Italy's borrowing costs by buying its bonds in secondary markets. The ECB yesterday said it would renew its bond-buying program, and council member Luc Coene said today the lender was ready to act as soon as governments "take steps."

"We are facing a very difficult situation in financial markets that requires a coordinated intervention by various states, above all the nations that share the euro," Berlusconi said at a press conference in Rome.

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