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Italian President Asks PM Prodi to Stay in Office

The president of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, has asked Romano Prodi to stay on as prime minister and face a vote of confidence in parliament. The decision came three days after Prodi announced that he was stepping down. Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome.

Romano Prodi will face a confidence vote to test his majority in parliament. The announcement came after the president held two days of talks with all political leaders on how to resolve the crisis. Prodi assured him that he has the needed support in parliament to continue to govern the country.

"I will seek a vote of confidence as soon as possible, with renewed impetus and a united coalition, determined to help the country at this difficult stage," said Mr. Prodi after his meeting with the president.

The prime minister had resigned on Wednesday after suffering an embarrassing defeat over foreign policy in the Senate, which included the government's plan to keep Italian troops in Afghanistan.

Prodi then said he would only return to office with strong commitments from the various parties to support government policy. He outlined his priorities in a detailed, 12-point plan that all coalition leaders, including radical leftists, have pledged to support. The plan calls for respecting Italy's international commitments in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

During consultations between the president and political parties and leaders, different positions had emerged. Some members of the opposition had called for immediate elections. Others had called for a new broad-based government.

President Napolitano said he decided against dissolving parliament and going to early general elections. He added that most party leaders agreed that early elections without a change in Italy's electoral law, which has increased the influence of small parties, was pointless.

The vote in the lower house and the Senate is expected to be held on two separate days, probably starting on Wednesday.