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Italian Government Takes Office


Italy's 61st post-war government, led by center-left leader Romano Prodi has been sworn in after five weeks of political vacuum. The government must now win confidence votes in both houses of parliament.

One day after center-left coalition leader Romano Prodi was given the mandate to form the new Italian government, his cabinet was sworn in at the presidential palace. Since the April general election, Mr. Prodi had been working on the government make-up and on satisfying all the allies in his nine-party coalition.

After presenting his cabinet list of 26 members to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, 66-year-old Prodi first read out the names of eight ministers, six of them women, without portfolio. Then he turned to those with portfolio.

He said the Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema and the Minister for Cultural Affairs, Francesco Rutelli, would also be his deputy prime ministers.

D'Alema, a former Communist, and another member of the new cabinet, Interior Minister Giuliano Amato, have both been prime ministers of Italy.

Arturo Parisi, was named Defense Minister. Former European Central Bank board member, Tommas Padoa Schioppa was Mr. Prodi's choice for economy minister. The well-respected and independent economist will face the difficult job of tackling Italy's huge debt and zero-growth rate.

Mr. Prodi said he has a great desire for cohesion and unity in the country. He said his team was united and homogenous and would last the entire legislature.

He also said the first commitment will be to rebuild a spirit of solidarity and a consensus on the goals needed for the country to move forward, and that, he added, means lowering the level of tension.

Mr. Prodi's cabinet list was presented 10 years to the day after he presented his first government on May 17, 1996. That government ended after two years when the communists withdrew their support.

With the diversity of parties making up the present center-left coalition, many in Italy wonder how long this government will remain in power. Silvio Berlusconi's center-right coalition, which lost the elections by a narrow margin, has vowed to maintain a strong opposition.

Mr. Prodi's government will need to win confidence votes in both houses of parliament. He said he would address the Senate on Thursday and the Chamber of Deputies early next week.

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