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Berlusconi backed in lower house

The votes are a constitutional requirement before Berlusconi can start work
The votes are a constitutional requirement before Berlusconi can start work  

ROME, Italy -- Media magnate Silvio Berlusconi's new government has been given the second vote of confidence it needs to begin work.

The vote in the Chamber of Deputies -- Italy's lower house -- came a day after the Senate backed his administration.

The lower house voted 351 to 261 with one abstention to support the government.

Berlusconi's coalition, which includes the anti-immigrant Northern League and the once-fascist National Alliance, has 347 deputies and he needed a simple majority of 316 to win.

The new premier renewed a promise to come up with conflict-of-interest legislation amid concern that as one of Italy's wealthiest men his ownership of a media, sports, finance and real estate empire worth around $12 billion could compromise his position.

"There is no personal or monetary gain for me in politics," Berlusconi said on Thursday. "The most dangerous conflicts of interest are the secret and hidden ones. Not those under the magnifier."

Berlusconi took office on June 10 after his conservative forces beat the incumbent centre-left government in May national elections. The confidence votes are a constitutional requirement for a new government.

The new prime minister has been battling concerns about conflicts of interest for years. During Thursday's debate, opposition leader Francesco Rutelli pressed the media mogul to stop talking and come up with a real solution.

"You, Mr. President of the Council of Ministers, must confront the issue," he told Berlusconi in a speech that received a standing ovation.

The daily Corriere della Sera, meanwhile, said a team of experts is drafting a proposal that would require Berlusconi to let an independent, three-person team manage his Fininvest holding company.

Through Fininvest, Berlusconi owns the controlling stake in Mediaset, Italy's largest private TV network, and Mondadori, the country's biggest publishing company.

• Italian Parliament

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