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Berlusconi Forms Italy's 60th Post-War Government


Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (l) is sworn in by Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi as the ministers of Italy's 60th government stand in the background, at the Quirinale Presidential Palace, in Rome
Three days after resigning as prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi was sworn in as head of a new Cabinet Sunday. Although Mr. Berlusconi replaced five ministers, his team is not very different from the previous one.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has formed and sworn in Italy's 60th post-war government.

Mr. Berlusconi read out the names of his new Cabinet to the media.

He kept most of his ministers in their old jobs. There was no change to the foreign and economy ministers, although those are two areas where Mr. Berlusconi and his government face the most pressing problems.

The new center-right government needs to address a stagnant economy and growing calls for Italian troops to withdraw from Iraq. Failure to address these issues has led to a loss in popularity for Mr. Berlusconi and his government.

The prime minister replaced five ministers, including those holding the industry, health and communications portfolios. He also named Giulio Tremonti, a long-time ally, deputy prime minister, just 10 months after Mr. Tremonti was ousted as economy minister.

The prime minister's leading opponent, Romano Prodi, expressed his disapproval at the nomination of Mr. Tremonti, saying that, as economy minister, he was mainly responsible for the negative trend in the Italian economy.

Mr. Berlusconi also announced the formation of a new ministry, Development and Territorial Cohesion, which will be responsible for efforts to develop poorer area in southern Italy.

The center-left opposition says Mr. Berlusconi's changes are merely cosmetic, and no more than a propaganda operation.

The prime minister stepped down this week after suffering a crushing defeat in regional elections earlier this month. His coalition allies applied pressure, calling on him to strengthen the Cabinet.

Recent polls suggest that the opposition would win, if elections were held now. The prime minister knows he has no more than a year to resolve a difficult economic situation and improve on his declining popularity before general elections are held.

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