Berlusconi targets economic growth, security, Naples rubbish (video)

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi included Tuesday economic growth, security and solving Naples' rubbish crisis as priorities for his new government, reported dpa.

In his first parliamentary speech since taking office last week, Berlusconi also said Italy would make "its voice heard" in Europe and vowed not to "sell off" national airline Alitalia,

The media magnate-turned-politician presented his centre-right government's programme, ahead of a confidence vote in parliament's lower house Chamber of Deputies, scheduled for Wednesday.

"We don't expect to perform miracles but we will achieve small and great things," Berlusconi told the Chamber, where his conservative coalition enjoys a comfortable majority.

The premier reiterated a pledge to hold his first "operational" cabinet meeting in Naples next week, where he would devote his efforts to solving the "shame" of the rubbish crises that has crippled the southern city - Italy's third largest - since late 2007.

Berlusconi also mentioned security as one of the government's "four most immediate priorities", but he appeared to tone down some of his allies' talk of drastic measures including making illegal immigration a crime and setting up citizen vigilante patrols in towns and cities.

The government had no intention to "ride the fear" of citizens, Berlusconi said, adding however, that "it is an error to deny that the first rule in a democracy is safeguarding security".

Berlusconi also did not refer to the expulsion of immigrants - including those from other European Union states - who are not gainfully employed, a threat which prompted the Romanian government to express concern on Monday.

"Growing (as a nation) means not allowing...the indiscriminate entry of immigrants, to be masters of our own home but also being proud of our ancient, welcoming spirit," Berlusconi said.

In an overture to the opposition - represented in parliament by the centre-left Democratic Party and the centrist Union of Christian Democrats - Berlusconi said that reforms were needed to "relaunch" Italy, and to do this "dialogue must begin immediately".

The fight against tax evasion, a pillar of the previous centre-left government's policies, would continue, Berlusconi said, "but never in a way that is punitive towards those who produce wealth that can be redistributed".

He also reiterated an election campaign pledge to abolish a property tax for owners of a first home, describing housing as "a primary asset in society" and said the government would strive to cut taxes for families and businesses.

The premier also pledged to cut state spending and reduce Italy's public debt, but he did not provide details.

"We have to pursue a foreign policy of development cooperation that will ensure the contractual capacity of our country in the market for raw materials, making our voice heard in Europe," Berlusconi said.

The only other reference to foreign affairs in a 27-minute long speech what Italy's "vital interest" in the resolution of conflicts in the Middle East including that involving the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Defending the security and historical identity of Israel, whose right to peace is reflected on the inalienable right of the Palestinians to have their own state, a democracy capable of eradicating any form of intolerance and fundamentalism and violence," Berlusconi said.

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