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Official Vote Count Shows Prodi Victory in Italian Elections

Official results in the Italian general election show center-left challenger Romano Prodi won enough seats in both houses of parliament to form a government. But Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi refused to concede defeat, citing irregularities.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said his center-left challenger Romano Prodi was irresponsible in claiming victory in the Italian elections before a full count of the votes.

Prodi said he had won the poll earlier Tuesday before final figures were in for the upper house, and announced his coalition could govern for five years.

"Our government will be politically and technically strong and it will be the government of all Italians," Prodi said. He added that his government would also be for Italians who did not vote for his coalition.

The former European Commission president also said his government would put Europe at the center of its policies.

Prodi, who strongly opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq, said he supports what he called "constructive relations with the United States." Prime Minister Berlusconi has been a strong supporter of the Iraq war and, following the ouster of Saddam Hussein, sent 3,000 troops to Iraq.

Prodi said, after a divisive campaign, it was time for Italians to come together.

"Today we turn a page," Prodi said. "We leave behind the sourness of a long and difficult electoral campaign. We need to start immediately to repair the tears that were produced in the country."

On Tuesday evening, the Interior Ministry showed Prodi's center-left bloc winning a majority in both houses of parliament. But Mr. Berlusconi refused to concede defeat.

He said there are many irregularities in the vote count from Italians living abroad, which need checking.

"We do not think that anybody today can claim victory with figures which are still very, very obscure," Berlusconi said. "He said he will recognize the political victory of the opposing coalition once the needed legal checks have been made.

Mr. Berlusconi suggested that Italy could follow Germany's example and create a grand coalition of left and right if final results show neither side is in control of both houses of parliament. But Prodi dismissed the suggestion that he needed help from the center-right to govern and called Berlusconi's refusal to concede "out of line."