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Italy's newly sworn-in government takes office amid fears of social tension

By Marzia De Giuli (Xinhua)

09:03, April 29, 2013

ROME, April 28 (Xinhua) -- Italy's awaited new government took office on Sunday amid hopes of urgent reforms against recession and fears of civil disorder, as two police officers and a passerby were shot and injured during what was supposed to be a day of celebration.

Enrico Letta, a prominent member of the center-left Democratic Party (PD), was sworn in as prime minister at the head of an unprecedented large coalition including the center-right and PD opponent People of Freedom (PdL) of former premier Silvio Berlusconi.

Letta and his 21 ministers swore to President Giorgio Napolitano, the first to be reelected in Italy's history and architect of what he called the "only government possible" to introduce immediate measures to tackle deepening crisis, signaling the end of two months of political stalemate.

The group put together by 46-year-old Letta, a moderate Europhile with bridge-building abilities, features nine ministers from the PD and five from the PdL along with some from former Premier Mario Monti's Civil Choice and highly respected institutional figures.

Among key appointees there are PdL Secretary Angelino Alfano as the deputy premier and the interior minister, the director general of the Italian central bank Fabrizio Saccomanni as finance minister and the first female foreign minister in the country's history, Former European Commissioner Emma Bonino.

The seven female ministers, more than ever, also include former interior minister Anna Maria Cancellieri as the justice minister and the first ever non-white new minister of integration Cecile Kyenge, a doctor originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

But the launch of the much-awaited government was marred by a dramatic shooting in which two police officers and a passerby were injured outside the prime minister office's building, about a kilometer from the presidential palace where the swearing was taking place.

One of the two police officers was reported to be in serious condition.

While the ceremony continued with most of the ministers unaware of the accident, the surrounding area was cordoned off, and ambulances and police blocked traffic. An unemployed man from southern Italy named as Luigi Preiti was arrested as the author of the criminal act.

"He had lost everything and was desperate. He wanted to shoot the ministers, but could not reach them and so he shot police," a Rome prosecutor told journalists after listening to Preiti's admission.

After an early council of ministers, Alfano told a press conference the accident was identified as being an isolated gesture. "The general situation of public order in the country is not a matter of concern," he said, adding that however "checks have been reinforced over the objectives at risk."

Letta and his team are expected to win a confidence vote of both chambers of parliament on Monday and start the urgent task to deal with declining economy and rising unemployment in a country plagued by recession after becoming one of the first eurozone victims of the global crisis.

Letta has pledged to cut political costs and change a voting law considered largely responsible for the inconclusive results of February's national elections. But according to political observers, the coalition will likely prove to be uneasy after the bitterness of disputes between the PD and the PdL in recent years.

The third largest force in parliament, the Five-Star Movement (M5S) whose success was a response to public anger with the scandal-hit established politicians, refused to take part in what it defined a "shady deal" between the two rival parties.

The Internet-based movement clarified its firm opposition to all forms of violence after the shooting, echoing appeals from the entire political and civil world to tone down and not stir up trouble in the current difficult times.

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