Italian President Giorgio Napolitano has ruled out standing down early to make way for new parliamentary elections, following the failure of attempts to form a government this week.
Mr Napolitano, whose term ends 15 May, spoke after news reports suggested he might resign to get around constitutional provisions which prevent a president dissolving parliament and calling elections in the final months of his mandate.
The 87-year-old told reporters he would continue his efforts to break the deadlock since inconclusive elections last month that left no group able to form a government.
"I will continue until the last day of my mandate to do as my sense of national responsibility suggests, without hiding from the country the difficulties that I am still facing," he told reporters at his Quirinale palace.
He said he would ask two small groups of experts to formulate proposals for institutional and social and economic reforms that could be supported by all political parties.
But he acknowledged that he had limited scope to force the divided parties to find a way out of political situation that he said was "frozen between irreconcilable positions".
Mr Napolitano met leaders of the main parties yesterday to try to find a way out of the stalemate, which has created deep uncertainty just as the Cyprus banking crisis has revived fears about the stability of the eurozone.
However, with all of the three main groups in parliament clinging to entrenched positions that have prevented a majority being formed in parliament, hopes of a solution that would prevent the need to go back to the polls have faded.
Centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani, whose party controls the lower house but does not have a majority in the Senate, failed to win enough support to form a government from any of the other parties during a week of talks.
He rejected demands by centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi for a cross-party coalition deal that would give the scandal-plagued former prime minister a share in power and the right to decide Mr Napolitano's successor.
Both Mr Berlusconi's group and the populist 5-Star Movement led by ex-comic Beppe Grillo have also ruled out a new technocrat government, like the one led by outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti, blocking what appears to be the only other option.
Italy has been in deep recession for more than a year, with record unemployment, especially among the young and a €2 trillion public debt that is dangerously exposed to swings on international bond markets.