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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Former Treasury Minister Picked to Lead Italy

ROME -- Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro on Friday asked former treasury minister Lamberto Dini to form a government, resolving a political crisis that began when Silvio Berlusconi resigned as prime minister last month.

Dini, who spent his career in the banking world before entering government last May, pledged to form an administration of technocrats to tackle the budget deficit, overhaul the pension system and carry out electoral reform.

"I'm about to form a government which will be free of party political ties. In substance, it will be a government of technocrats," Dini, 63, told reporters in a brief statement.

Dini added that the government must produce a budget package to sustain Italy's economic recovery and boost employment.

Dini accepted the nomination as prime minister-designate with the task of forming a government. He will take office only after he has assembled a cabinet and won the backing of parliament in a confidence vote.

The nomination of Dini ends a bitter political crisis sparked by the resignation of billionaire businessman Berlusconi on Dec. 22 after just seven months in office.

Berlusconi, another political neophyte who powered to victory in general elections last March, was brought down by a mutiny by his Northern League coalition partner.

The coalition parties who remained loyal to Berlusconi's Freedom Alliance demanded that Berlusconi must be reappointed or snap elections called.

The League plus opposition centrist and leftist parties said that a broad-based institutional government must be formed to pass key institutional reforms.

Dini did not specify in his statement to reporters whether he expected his government to be merely an interim one in the run-up to early polls or of longer duration.

Berlusconi, in an initial reaction to Dini's appointment, repeated his call for early elections.

"Only a rapid return to the ballot box will create a coalition government which is capable of ensuring full stability and political authority," Berlusconi said in a statement.

"The idea of a brief truce, guaranteed by a government of technocrats, can only be of use to the country in this framework," he added.

Dini, who will head Italy's 54th government since World War II, told reporters he would seek to ensure equal representation in the media for all political parties.

Berlusconi owns three national television channels and his critics say this makes a fair election campaign impossible.

Gianfranco Fini, leader of the far-right National Alliance and a staunch Berlusconi ally, said that a Dini government would be the prelude to early elections.

But Northern League leader Umberto Bossi, the man who did most to unseat Berlusconi, said that elections were remote.

"So much water will flow under the bridge before elections are held that Berlusconi will die of boredom and old age," Bossi said.

The former communist Democratic Party of the Left indicated that it would be prepared to back a Dini government providing it were non-partisan.

Dini, who is not a member of any political party, has a far lower public profile than the ever-smiling Berlusconi.

He is the second leading figure from the Bank of Italy to be selected to be prime minister in the past two years. Former bank governor Carlo Azeglio Ciampi was press-ganged into leading the country in 1993 at the height of its corruption scandals.

During his seven months as treasury minister, Dini backed strong measures to control inflation and reduce one of the world's largest state debts.