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Politics

Italy forms new coalition government

A new coalition government has been formed in Italy under the leadership of Prime Minister Enrico Letta. The new Cabinet will be sworn in on Sunday morning.

Letta is deputy leader of the center-left Democratic Party which has opposed former premier Silvio Berlusconi and his center-right People of Freedom party for the past 20 years.

The 46-year-old is also on the right of his party and the nephew of one of Berlusconi's closest aides, Gianni Letta.

Letta spent more than two hours in talks with Berlusconi to forge a new government alliance on Saturday. Late afternoon in Rome, Letta appeared with President Giorgio Napolitano at the presidential Quirinal Palace to announce he had won the support of other parties to form a coalition government. It will include one of Berlusconi's closest allies as deputy prime minister.

Berlusconi himself will not be in the Cabinet. In two trials due to resume next month, he is appealing a tax fraud conviction and defending himself on charges of having sex with a 17-year-old prostitute. Berlusconi said he had set "no conditions" for his support in forming the new government. "Therefore, we contributed to being able to form a government in a short time," he said.

Letta expressed "sober satisfaction over the team we put together and its willingness" to form a coalition.

Angelino Alfano, the People of Freedom secretary and Berlusconi's top political aide, will be deputy prime minister and interior minister. He is a former justice minister. Bank of Italy Director General Fabrizio Saccomanni has been named economy minister. Former European Commissioner Emma Bonino will be foreign minister.

Letta said his government would contain a record number of women ministers. The 21 ministers will be sworn in on Sunday. Letta is expected to go before parliament to seek a vote of confidence on Monday.

The Italian president complimented Letta for his work and wished him well: "I hope that this government can get to work quickly in the spirit of fervent cooperation and without any prejudice or conflict," Napolitano told reporters.

Napolitano, 87, was re-elected by parliament earlier this month for another seven-year term because of the political instability caused by the inconclusive elections last February.

jm/ccp (Reuters, AFP)