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Prodi: New Italian Government May Be Formed Next Month

Italy's center-left leader, Romano Prodi, has told a French radio network that he hopes to form a new government in May.

Prodi told Europe 1 radio that a new president likely will have to be chosen before his coalition is given a mandate to govern.

He said parliament will soon begin negotiations to replace current President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, whose term ends next month.

Official results from Italy's general elections, which ended Monday, show Prodi's coalition won by a razor-thin margin.

The office of French President Jacques Chirac says the French leader congratulated Prodi Wednesday on his victory.

Mr. Chirac said he hoped Italy and France would strengthen their ties and cooperation for the sake of Europe.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi still refuses to concede defeat and insists some votes must be recounted.

In Italy, the president gives the prime minister the mandate to govern.

Prodi Wednesday rejected Mr. Berlusconi's suggestion to merge the two coalitions into a German-style "grand coalition" to govern the country.

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