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New Foreign Minister Appointed in Italy

The Italian government has a new foreign minister, the 52-year-old right-wing leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Gianfranco Fini. A former Neo-Fascist, Mr. Fini has managed to remodel his image into that of a moderate conservative.

Gianfranco Fini is the leader the conservative National Alliance party, the second largest in the ruling center-right coalition government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Mr. Fini replaces Franco Frattini, who is moving to Brussels to become the European Union's new justice and security commissioner.

An effective public speaker and an able politician, Mr. Fini has made no secret of wanting to become foreign minister. He has worked hard on gaining international credibility in recent years.

Opposition members voiced their concern and spoke critically about the new foreign minister, saying he will not provide stability to the present government. Francesco Rutelli is the leader of the Daisy, one of the opposition parties.

Mr. Rutelli said the new foreign minister will have a lot of work to do. And he said that even though the Berlusconi government speaks of stability, Mr. Fini is the fourth foreign minister in three and a half years.

Other critics have described the new foreign minister as very ambitious and prepared to make compromise when he has something to gain.

But members of the government coalition, like Federico Adornato, of Forza Italia, the largest party in the coalition, reject the criticism and say they are satisfied with the choice.

Mr. Adornato says for Mr. Fini this is a position of great responsibility at an international level and the crowning of his efforts.

At home, Mr. Fini is widely credited with clearing his National Alliance party of its Fascist legacy. He created the National Alliance from the old Italian Social Movement party, which included fascist sympathizers and hardliners.

Deputies like Mario Baccini, from a centrist party in the coalition, is among those who recognize what a long way the party has come.

He says the National Alliance took some important steps in recent years and voters reacted to these positively.

Mr. Fini also remodeled his own image from a far-right leader to a moderate conservative. Italians still remember how in 1994 he praised Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini calling him the greatest politician of the 20th century.

But he has since retracted that statement and even condemned the former Italian dictator for his racial laws. Mr. Fini traveled to Auschwitz in 1999. Protesters reacted angrily to his visit, but just four years later he was given a warm welcome when he traveled to Israel.