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Berlusconi forms new government

Silvio Berlusconi

ROME, Italy (CNN) -- Silvio Berlusconi, who resigned from the Italian prime ministership three days ago, was sworn in Saturday as the next leader of a new government.

He presented a Cabinet to Italy's president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.

Ciampi Friday asked Berlusconi to form the government after Berlusconi quit as prime minister Wednesday.

That resignation sparked political consultations among Ciampi and other politicians over a new government.

Berlusconi said Friday he expected to go before parliament for a confidence vote next week.

The conservative leader said the government's new platform would focus on aiding Italy's underdeveloped south and financially pressed families -- as demanded by some of his political allies, including the powerful National Alliance party.

Berlusconi resigned from the prime ministership Wednesday, sparking political consultations among Ciampi and other politicians.

Up until Wednesday, Berlusconi had led Italy's longest-serving government since World War II.

However, he had been under increasing pressure to resign after his Forza Italia party lost 11 of 13 regional elections -- prompting the the Union of Christian Democrats, a coalition party, to quit the government.

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

Berlusconi, a staunch ally of U.S. President George Bush, 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.

In his speech Wednesday, Berlusconi said: "What is happening is natural, and I don't want to dramatize artificially a very complicated situation." But he pledged to form a new government that will serve as a "unifying force." (Full story)

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