News / Europe

Italian Parliament Approves Latest Austerity Plan

Italian Premier Mario Monti, center, is flanked by Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata, left, during a meeting in Rome, December 15, 2011.
Italian Premier Mario Monti, center, is flanked by Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata, left, during a meeting in Rome, December 15, 2011.
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The Italian government has overwhelmingly won a crucial parliamentary vote of confidence Friday over an austerity package intended to help the third largest economy in the eurozone get its finances in order.

The lower house of parliament voted 495-88 in favor of a nearly $40 billion austerity package Friday, with the upper house voting next week.

Prime Minister Mario Monti's technocratic government has broad support in both houses and has pushed through a series of tax hikes, spending cuts and pension reform to bring Italy's budget in line by 2013.

Democratic Party lawmaker Livia Turco said her party had supported the measure after pressing for changes to make it more fair.

"We think that the austerity package that Prime Minister Monti has presented is necessary because - as it is well-known in the whole world - Italy is particularly at risk in this crisis," she said. "We gave our contribution as democratic party, so this package would be more fair, so we have tried to protect the weaker parts of the population."

But Claudio D'Amico of the Northern League complained that residents of northern Italy are being asked to pay too much.

"Because we believe that this government is not serving the interests of the whole country and, above all, of all the citizens in the north who have paid and with this austerity package they will have to pay even more," he said.

Monti was appointed last month to replace longtime Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Berlusconi stepped down just before Italy began considering the austerity measures to avoid a debt crisis.

Anger over the austerity measures also sparked security concerns Friday.

Italian police said they intercepted several threatening letters sent to Prime Minister Mario Monti, other government officials and the editors of several major newspapers.

Police said in addition to the threat, each letter also contained a single bullet. The letters were signed by a group calling itself the Armed Proletarian Movement.

On Monday, police in Rome discovered two suspicious packages mailed to Italy's justice minister and the mayor of Rome.  Authorities said the packages, discovered at Rome postal facilities, contained bullets.  

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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