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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Italian Prime Minister Survives Key Confidence Vote in Senate

ROME -- Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi's government survived a key confidence vote, but a division in his coalition over the country's troops in NATO's mission in Afghanistan could lead to further hurdles.

The Communists in Prodi's coalition have announced that they will not back him on Afghanistan, which leaves him facing the prospect of having to depend on Silvio Berlusconi's conservative opposition bloc to keep Italy's troops in the NATO mission.

After squeaking by in the Senate confidence vote Wednesday night, Prodi's center-left coalition must submit to a separate confidence vote in the Chamber of Deputies, where lawmakers began debate Thursday morning.

With a comfortable majority in the lower Chamber, Prodi is all but certain to win the confidence vote there, scheduled for Friday.

An opinion poll for the Milan daily Corriere della Sera newspaper found that many Italians believed Prodi's fractious coalition, which took office in May, would only last a few more months.

The staunchly pro-U.S. Berlusconi pledged on Thursday to come to Prodi's rescue on funding for the Afghan mission, which risked defeat in the Senate without votes from outside the government coalition.

Berlusconi said his center-right forces would vote to continue funding Italy's 1,800 troops in Afghanistan "because the country must be serious and have a clear, loyal policy toward its allies."

Objections by Communists and Greens to the Afghan mission led to a key foreign policy defeat in the Senate, prompting Prodi to resign and forcing the confidence votes to allow his government to stay in office.