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Berlusconi takes office in Italy

Berlusconi was Italian premier for seven months, seven years ago  

ROME, Italy -- Media baron Silvio Berlusconi has been sworn in as Italian premier after a month of Cabinet negotiations.

His 25-member administration includes Umberto Bossi, the volatile politician who brought down Berlusconi's government seven years ago.

Berlusconi is taking office after a May 13 parliamentary election victory that gave his centre-right coalition a solid majority in both the Chamber of Deputies and the upper house, the Senate.

Gianfranco Fini, as deputy premier, was sworn in after the Prime Minister. He leads another coalition partner, the former neo-fascist National Alliance.

Bossi, whose Northern League party once promoted secession for Italy's prosperous north, was next to take the oath as minister of reforms and devolution, swearing his loyalty to the Italian republic. Compulsory votes of confidence in the new government are expected to be held in the Italian parliament next week, after Berlusconi returns from a NATO summit on Wednesday in Brussels and a European Union summit Thursday and Friday in Sweden.

Berlusconi, 64, is one of the world's richest men. He controls three private TV networks and has holdings in publishing, advertising, insurance and real estate.

He told the Associated Press: "Italians are expecting a lot but the team I've presented is on top of the situation," promising his government would "ensure innovation, freedom and welfare for all citizens."

Bossi told the news agency: "I am happy because it seems to be a government with people who have something to say and something to do."

The Northern League, which wants the central government to give more power to regional and local governments, secured two ministries, including justice.

Gianfranco Fini, deputy premier, is head of the once-fascist National Alliance  

Berlusconi's allies in Europe have raised concerns about his anti-immigrant position. But the European Union shows no intention of imposing sanctions on Italy as it did on Austria when Joerg Haider's far-right party entered the government.

Piero Fassino, shadow Justice Minister, said Bossi's post should have gone to someone "reliable and known for being able to speak to the whole nation," he told the Associated Press. He also criticised Berlusconi for having named only two women.

One of Berlusconi's main ministers -- respected in Italy and abroad -- is Renato Ruggiero, the former chief of the World Trade Organization.

Many of the key positions went to Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, which won 30 percent of the vote in the May 13 elections and is Italy's largest party. Some ministers were old faces from Berlusconi's first tenure in 1994.

The economics ministry, which combines treasury and finance, went to Berlusconi's economics adviser, Giulio Tremonti, who served previously as finance minister.

The Ministry of Defence was entrusted to another veteran, Antonio Martino, who was Berlusconi's foreign minister in 1994.

The newly-created Ministry for Italians in the World went to the National Alliance's Mirko Tremaglia, who has long campaigned for the right to vote for Italians who live abroad.

• Italian Parliament
• Italian President
• Forza Italia

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