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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 April, 2005, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
Allies put pressure on Berlusconi
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi is the longest-serving premier in post-war Italy
Italy's Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini has urged Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to call a vote of confidence in his centre-right government.

The statement came as members of the ruling coalition met to discuss how to counter heavy losses in recent regional elections.

Mr Berlusconi is struggling to keep the coalition intact, correspondents say.

The prime minister said last week that he was open to the idea of calling an early general election.

Mr Fini's statement, released by his National Alliance party, said: "I have asked Berlusconi to go to parliament next week... to ask for a confidence vote in the government."


Another partner in the centre-right coalition, the Union of Christian Democrats, said it would discuss whether to withdraw its ministers.

The regional elections saw the opposition win 11 of the 13 regions up for re-election and around 54% of the vote.

Some reports say Mr Berlusconi, the longest-serving premier in post-war Italy, is planning to shuffle certain members of the cabinet and present a new programme to parliament.

Mr Fini added: "If Berlusconi wants to change a few ministers, let him do that."

Popular opposition to Italy's role in the war in Iraq, combined with a struggling economy, have both contributed to a decline in Mr Berlusconi's popularity.

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