Dini to complete reforms then quit

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The Independent Online
Rome - The Italian Prime Minister, Lamberto Dini, said yesterday his government would resign as soon as it had carried out limited reforms. But Mr Dini's speech failed to impress the conservative Freedom Alliance coalition of his predecessor, Silvio Berlusconi. The Alliance indicated it would abstain in the forthcoming vote of confidence rather than give outright support to the new government.

Mr Dini, treasury minister in Mr Berlusconi's government, detailed a core programme of economic and institutional reforms at the start of a two-day confidence debate in the lower house of parliament. "If we get the co-operation we are looking for from parliament, I realistically believe that all this can be carried out rapidly," he told the Chamber of Deputies.

"In order to remove all misunderstandings, I confirm that the government will consider its task complete as soon as it has carried out the four undertakings in its programme," he said.

Mr Dini, a former central banker, formed a "government of experts" from outside parliament a week ago after Mr Berlusconi's seven-month-old government resigned when the Northern League party quit the Freedom Alliance coalition.

Mr Berlusconi and his remaining allies have refused to back Mr Dini in the confidence vote, expected tomorrow, unless they win a commitment for an early general election.

Mr Dini gave no such undertaking but appealed directly to the Berlusconi bloc for support.

"I believe that the government which is presenting itself to parliament can ask each of you, and above all those parties which wanted me as treasury minister, for the consent it needs to carry out its difficult task," Mr Dini said.

After the speech Mr Berlusconi said the Freedom Alliance partners would meet through night to decide how to vote.