New Italian government is sworn in

New Italian government is sworn in

Italy's new government led by Prime Minister Mario Monti was sworn in on Wednesday - in a move welcomed by the country's main European Union partners, dpa reported.

Monti and the other 16 members of his cabinet took their oaths of allegiance before President Giorgio Napolitano, at an afternoon ceremony in Rome.

In Berlin, Chancellor Berlin Angela Merkel through a spokesman said she was looking forward to working closely with Italy's new premier someone she "regards very highly".

French President Nicolas Sarkozy sent Monti a letter of congratulations in which he said the French people are aware of Monti's "European commitment" and his "determination"

Sarkozy also said he was "convinced" Monti's government would implement additional reforms to "complement" EU-mandate austerity measures which have already been introduced by former premier Silvio Berlusconi's government.

These plans "will allow it (Italy) to return to the path of stability and growth with confidence" Sarkozy wrote in the letter.

Monti, unveiling his cabinet, expressed confidence that it would succeed in calming international market concerns over Italy's credit-worthiness.

He said the new government's work would provide "reassurance for those sectors of the market that are in difficulty, especially concerning our country," Monti said.

Monti is scheduled to unveil details of the government's programme on Thursday during a parliament debate scheduled to begin in the early afternoon (1100 GMT)

The cabinet - in which Monti will also hold the interim position of Economy Minister - is mostly made up of technocrats, including economists and academics.

Corrado Passera, the chief executive officer of Italy's second-largest bank, Intesa San Paolo, took up the post of Minister of Economic Development and Infrastructure.

Another notable nomination was Italy's ambassador to the United States, Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata, as Foreign Minister.

Monti, a former European Union commissioner, during consultations this week received the backing of the country's two largest political parties - outgoing prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom and the opposition centre-left Democratic Party.

However, the new cabinet does not contain any representatives from Italy's highly polarized political scene - something which Monti said would be an advantage.

"The presence of non-political personalities in the government, will facilitate rather than radically hinder, because it will remove a source of embarrassment, Monti said.

Following Thursday's debate, the new government will have to be approved by the two houses of parliament - the upper Senate and the lower Chamber of Deputies which are scheduled to hold confidence votes on Thursday and Friday, respectively.

President Napolitano asked Monti to form a government to replace the one lead by Berlusconi, who resigned on Saturday as premier after parliament approved EU-mandated austerity measures.

On Wednesday European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso indicated that eurozone countries need to raise taxes, and not just cut expenditure, to solve their debt problems. He was speaking during a debate on the introduction of a wealth tax in Italy.

"Our member states spend more than they want to receive from taxpayers," Barroso said, adding: "When the point has been reached when you can no longer cut expenditure, you need to think about raising revenue, this is unavoidable."

"This means appropriate fair taxation," not on labour but "on excessive consumption of energy or ... on considerable fortunes and patrimonies," Barroso told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

At 120.5 per cent of gross domestic product, Italy's debt level is twice what is required under the Maastricht Treaty for euro members.

On Wednesday market pressure on Italy continued with the yield on Italian government's 10-year bonds rising above the 7 per cent - a borrowing cost which many analysts consider as unsustainable for the eurozone's third largest economy.

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