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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 May 2006, 19:36 GMT 20:36 UK
Prodi gets mandate for government
Romano Prodi
Romano Prodi hopes to present his cabinet on Wednesday
Italian Prime Minister-designate Romano Prodi has been formally given a mandate to form the next government.

He was given the mandate during a meeting with the new president, Giorgio Napolitano, ending weeks of deadlock.

Mr Prodi said he would present his list of ministers on Wednesday, and promised a "solid" government. The cabinet could be sworn in later that day.

The announcement comes five weeks after Mr Prodi narrowly defeated Silvio Berlusconi in the general election.

Mr Napolitano summoned Mr Prodi on Tuesday evening after a day spent consulting former presidents and party chiefs, including Mr Prodi and Mr Berlusconi.

He said no-one in the outgoing coalition led by Mr Berlusconi had contested the choice of Mr Prodi as the next prime minister.

Defiant opposition

Mr Prodi said he had "reassured the president that the coalition is solid."

He said his coalition had the "strength and cohesion to put together a cabinet and a government programme".

But he admitted he faced "quite a long night" with late-night talks planned with coalition allies to finalise some of the key ministerial posts, including defence and interior.

The new government is expected to face a confidence vote in both houses of parliament next week.

The centre-left Mr Prodi, 66, was declared the winner after a narrow victory in April elections, but his mandate to govern was delayed both by a recount of disputed ballots and then by the election of a new president.

Correspondents predict Mr Prodi will face a tough time with such a razor-thin majority, which includes just two seats in the Senate.

Mr Berlusconi says his conservative coalition "will be ready to profit, democratically, from the weakness" of Mr Prodi's government.



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