Scalfaro set to name Italy PM

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The Independent Online
ROME (Reuter) - President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro is keen to name Italy's next prime minister - expected to be Silvio Berlusconi, the media tycoon - as soon as possible, the new Senate speaker said yesterday.

Carlo Scognamiglio, who was narrowly elected to lead the upper house on Saturday, said Mr Scalfaro wanted to begin the process of choosing a government this week. 'He left me with the impression he wanted to move swiftly,' said Mr Scognamiglio, who met Mr Scalfaro after being elected.

Mr Berlusconi's Freedom Alliance took a first step to power after last month's election victory by winning the speakers' posts in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. The speakers are among several figures Mr Scalfaro must consult before naming a prime minister to try to form a government. 'He told me he will sound out the heads of parties . . . on Thursday, and the speakers soon afterwards,' said Mr Scognamiglio, who belongs to Forza Italia, Mr Berlusconi's party. Irene Pivetti, also elected on Saturday as speaker of the lower house, belongs to the Northern League, which, with the neo-Fascists and Forza Italia, makes up the Freedom Alliance.

The Prime Minister, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, resigned after the speakers' election, but will stay on as caretaker until a new government takes office. If Mr Berlusconi is invited to form a government, it would crown a meteoric political career. In January, he set aside a business empire worth almost pounds 5bn a year to found Forza Italia.