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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 May 2006, 19:24 GMT 20:24 UK
Italy approves Prodi government
Romano Prodi. File photo
Romano Prodi can now move ahead to run the country
Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi's government has won a vote of confidence in the lower house of parliament, sealing its mandate to run the country.

The 344-268 vote in the Chamber of Deputies came four days after the centre-left cabinet was approved in the upper house, the Senate.

Mr Prodi's coalition has a solid majority in the lower house.

It narrowly beat former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right bloc in elections last month.

Economy 'priority'

The result of Tuesday's vote was announced by the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Fausto Bertinotti.

KEY CABINET POSTS
Prime Minister: Romano Prodi
Foreign: Massimo D'Alema
Culture: Francesco Rutelli
Economy: Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa
Interior: Giuliano Amato
Justice: Clemente Mastella
Defence: Arturo Parisi
Labour: Cesare Damiano
Education: Giuseppe Fioroni
Agriculture: Paolo De Castro
Health: Livia Turco
Environment: Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio
Transport: Alessandro Bianchi

The positive outcome was widely expected as Mr Prodi hold a clear 70-seat majority in the lower house.

The Senate approved Mr Prodi's coalition last Friday by 165 votes to 155 against.

Crucially all seven senators for life backed his government in the house, where he has only a two-seat majority.

The first priority for the new government is the economy, which Mr Prodi has described as a disaster.

On Tuesday, he said the situation was as critical as in 1996, when Italy was struggling to meet its targets for joining the euro.

'Jolt'

Last week, Mr Prodi announced plans to reverse many of the policies of his predecessor, pledging to withdraw Italian troops from Iraq, and launched a scathing attack on Italy's political climate.

Mr Prodi said Italy needed a social, economic and moral jolt to mark a clean break with the past.

He said there was a climate of tolerance towards unethical if not downright illegal behaviour in Italy, marked by huge conflicts of interest and shameless enrichment.

He said his coalition was ready to govern Italy for the next five years, in order to carry out their objectives.

These include cancelling constitutional changes carried out by Mr Berlusconi's government.

Mr Prodi gave no date for the troop withdrawal and said a technical time frame would have to be worked out with the Iraqi authorities and with the UK and United States.

The previous government of Mr Berlusconi had decided to withdraw Italy's 2,600 troops from Iraq by the end of 2006.


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