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Last Updated: Friday, 23 February 2007, 11:34 GMT
Move to seal Italian cabinet deal
Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi (file image)
The issue of troop deployments split Mr Prodi's coalition
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano is holding talks with key politicians on forming a new government, in an effort to resolve a deep political crisis.

PM Romano Prodi is hoping to stay in office after centre-left coalition partners agreed to back him.

The crisis began on Wednesday, when Mr Prodi resigned after losing a Senate vote on foreign policy.

Some coalition partners had opposed troop deployments in Afghanistan and plans to expand a US airbase in Italy.

The deal between Mr Prodi and other party leaders came late on Thursday.

"We have all agreed to the programme so that he can continue to govern," his spokesman, Silvio Sircana, said.

The 12-point programme gives the prime minister the final say in any future disputes. It is also reportedly includes support for Italy's military presence in Afghanistan.

Mr Prodi's government had been forced onto the defensive over the continued deployment of 2,000 Italian troops in Afghanistan, with strong opposition from some of his more left-wing coalition partners.

Plans for the expansion of a big US military base in Vicenza, northern Italy, had also sparked protests both within his government and on the street, with large demonstrations in Vicenza at the weekend.

The first thing is to stop the political relationships with the extreme parties
Giuseppe Gambino, Palermo

Mr Napolitano will have the final say on whether Mr Prodi should be allowed to form a new government.

During Friday's talks, the president - a former communist - is expected to seek firm guarantees that the cabinet can rely on a firm majority in parliament.

But the concern, says the BBC's Christian Fraser in Rome, will be that the same risks are there.

With only a one-seat majority in the Senate Mr Prodi is still vulnerable.

In some areas the policy divisions are so deep that it is hard to see why in the medium term a new Prodi government would be any more stable than the first, our correspondent adds.

Mr Prodi's government was brought down by two communist senators who rebelled against their own parties and joined the opposition in the key vote on Wednesday.

The motion had asked the Senate to approve the government's foreign policy.

Although it was not a formal confidence vote, Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema had urged the government to resign if it could not win the Senate's backing.

Share of power in Italian Senate
Further detail of Centre-left seats (others)
Italy of Values - 4 seats
Popular-UDEUR - 3 seats
The Union - South Tyrolean People's Party - 3 seats
South Tyrolean People's Party - 2 seats
Consumers' List - 1 seat
Olive Tree - 1 seat
Autonomy Liberty Democracy - 1 seat
The Union (abroad) - 4 seats

Profile: Romano Prodi
22 Feb 07 |  Europe
Italian PM hands in resignation
21 Feb 07 |  Europe

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