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Prodi Forms Gov't, Pledges Unity
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Romano Prodi formed a new Italian government yesterday and vowed to soothe political tensions in a country split in two by the closest election in its post-war history.


Prodi, who was given the mandate to govern on Tuesday, presented his cabinet list to President Giorgio Napolitano after protracted negotiations with his center-left coalition partners over the distribution of portfolios.


The 66-year-old former European Commission chief and his ministers were sworn in later yesterday. "There is a great desire for a new start combined with a desire for cohesion and unity," Prodi said after announcing his team, drawn from eight center-left parties.


Prodi's coalition won a razor-thin victory in the April 9-10 ballot over the center-right bloc led by Silvio Berlusconi, who governed for a record five years and is still contesting the result of the vote.


"The first commitment will be to rebuild a spirit of solidarity and a consensus on the goals needed for the country to move forward, and that means lowering the level of tension and litigiousness," Prodi said.


Ten years to the day since he began his first stint as prime minister, Prodi named former European Central Bank board member Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa as economy minister, responsible for tackling Italy's flagging growth and debt mountain.


Massimo D'Alema, who comes from the biggest party in Prodi's bloc, was made foreign minister and will share the role of deputy prime minister with Daisy Party leader Francesco Rutelli.


Giuliano Amato, a former prime minister, will head the Interior Ministry. Six women, fewer than promised by Prodi, were among the 26 members of the new government.


Prodi called his cabinet "a team, not just a group of individuals" even though he spent most of the night putting the final touches to the list, pressured by allies who have squabbled over top jobs for weeks.


Many commentators wonder how long he can last. His first spell in government ended after two years in 1998 when the Communists withdrew their support. Berlusconi, in his final news conference as prime minister on Tuesday, said his was "only a see you later," not a farewell.


(China Daily May 18, 2006)

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