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Prodi Prepares to Form Cabinet
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Italian opposition leader Romano Prodi said Wednesday he forged ahead with plans to form a cabinet despite Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's refusal to concede defeat.

In an interview with France's Europe 1 radio on Wednesday, Prodi said he had already talked with allies in his center-left coalition on the formation of a new government, the local media reported.

But Prodi said the government would not be appointed until May because it would probably have to wait for a mandate from Carlo Azeglio Ciampi's successor.

Under the Italian constitution, it is the president's job to formally appoint a new government.

Italian President Ciampi's term ends on May 18 and the president has made it clear that he wants his successor - who will be chosen by parliament in voting on May 12/13 - to name the new premier.

Local media reports said that Prodi was hoping for Ciampi to appoint him immediately but the president has been reluctant to do so.

Prodi met with Ciampi for more than an hour on Wednesday morning. The president's office issued a statement after the talks saying there were "scheduled appointments that were unavoidable".

It cited the convening of the new parliament on April 28 and the subsequent election of its two speakers and the presidential election.

Prodi said at a press conference afterwards that his government would be appointed either immediately after the appointment of the speakers or as soon as a new president was sworn in.

"That means either in the first half of May or the second," he said.

He also said there was no question of hastening the end of Ciampi's term in order to speed up procedures.

Meanwhile, Prodi rejected Berlusconi's words that the general election had produced no clear winner.

"It was a clear victory and recognized by all," said Prodi, "We have a clear majority. we are the evident winners. Now we will form our government."

Prodi also again firmly rejected Berlusconi's suggestion of forming a broad-based, German-style coalition to govern Italy, stressing his coalition fully backed him on this.

Prodi said that he had no fear of the election result being overturned.

In the House, the center-left won 49.8 percent compared to the center-right's 49.73 percent, a margin of just some 25,000 votes, while its majority in the Senate rests on two seats.

Berlusconi has challenged Prodi's claim of victory, saying the election had "irregularities", and demanded checks on spoilt and disputed voting slips and even a possible recount.

(Xinhua News Agency April 13, 2006)

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