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Italy's Berlusconi Faces Possible Indictment Ahead of Confidence Vote

Silvio Berlusconi

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi presented his new cabinet to parliament and outlined his new strategy until general elections are held in May of next year. He pledged to develop Italy's poor south, cut taxes for business and assist families.

The Italian prime minister addressed parliament just as Milan prosecutors announced they had asked for Mr. Berlusconi to be put on trial again for alleged corruption.

In the morning news leaks that a soon-to-be-released report on the investigation into the killing of an Italian intelligence officer in Baghdad last month cleared the U.S. military of any responsibility, led to calls by the opposition for Mr. Berlusconi to address parliament on the matter.

Mr. Berlusconi rejected those calls.

"I am sorry that unfortunate leaks," the prime minister said, "have wrongly led someone to speak about an investigation that is not yet finished, and naturally I will not comment on these leaks."

Mr. Berlusconi assured lawmakers that he would brief parliament on the investigation when it has been concluded.

Then he spoke of his new government's strategy ahead of a confidence vote Wednesday in the lower house and Thursday in the upper house.

He blamed external factors for Italy's economic problems, and asked lawmakers for their support until the end of the legislature in 2006.

Mr. Berlusconi made promises to the Italian people.

Mr. Berlusconi pledged to help families whose purchasing power has suffered since the introduction of the euro. He also said the government would work to re-launch investments and competitiveness for business and strengthen action for Italy's poor south.

He also said efforts to shore up Italy's public accounts and reduce its deficit would continue

Mr. Berlusconi also urged his centre-right allies to stay united ahead of next year's general elections. He told them they should all be proud of what they had achieved together and continue to work to meet a higher challenge.