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New Berlusconi government approved


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Italy
Silvio Berlusconi
Government

ROME, Italy (CNN) -- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has won parliamentary approval for a new government, ending a week-long political crisis that followed an embarrassing defeat in regional elections.

The Senate, the upper house of parliament, voted 170-117 on Thursday to back Berlusconi's rejigged Cabinet. The vote of confidence came a day after a similar victory in the lower house.

Berlusconi resigned last week from his post due to bickering among his coalition members. However, Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi asked Berlusconi to form a new Cabinet in order to complete his term in office.

Prior to Thursday's vote, Berlusconi told the Senate he would carry out an economic platform that includes tax cuts for businesses.

Berlusconi's popularity has declined recently as the country's economy has slipped and opposition to Italian involvement in the U.S.-led war in Iraq has increased.

A staunch ally of U.S. President George Bush, Berlusconi said last month Italy's 3,000 troops in Iraq may begin a partial withdrawal this fall.

The country's contingent is the third-largest force among U.S. allies in Iraq, behind Britain and South Korea. Twenty-eight Italians have died in the conflict -- 21 military personnel, six civilians and one intelligence officer.

Berlusconi is still weathering the fallout from the mistaken shooting of an Italian intelligence agent by U.S. forces in Iraq last month.

His coalition also has endured defeats in recent regional elections -- prompting the Union of Christian Democrats, a coalition member, to quit the government and throw Berlusconi's government in disarray.

The coalition is the 59th Italian government since 1949, but the longest-serving in modern times. Its five-year term was not due to end until 2006


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