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New Italian Government Expected As Probes Extend to Mafia Ties

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IN the run-up to a national referendum on political reform and in the midst of ever-widening corruption probes that are paralyzing the country, Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro opened talks on forming a new government.

He summoned Senate Speaker Giovanni Spadolini and Chamber of Deputies Speaker Giorgio Napolitano to the presidential palace on March 30. This is likely to be the first step in enlarging the government coalition, perhaps to include the Democratic Party of the Left (the ex-Communist Party, or PDS) and the Republican Party. They were later joined by Prime Minister Giuliano Amato. At press time, Mr. Scalfaro said he would delay a decision, but "reserved the right to take the appropriate steps."

"I think that a new government will take power, if not before, certainly after the [April 18] referendum," says Claudio Ligas, spokesman of the PDS. Speaker Napolitano, a PDS member, is a leading candidate to take over Mr. Amato's job.

The talks opened as the country was buffeted by unprecedented scandals, including accusations by Mafia penitents in judicial inquiries that former Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti arranged political favors for the mob. International concern pushed the lira to a historic low against the German mark at 1,000 lira. (The scandal's effect on Italian business, Page 6.)

Giorgio Benvenuto, the leader of Amato's Socialist Unity Party, said March 29 that he felt the time had come to create a coalition government with a broader parliamentary base, including the PDS and the Republicans. The PDS has never been a member of a coalition, and Christian Democrats have been staunch opponents of a Communist presence in past governments.

The Christian Democrats (DC), the Socialists, the Social Democrats, and the Liberals make up the present coalition.

Many of the opposition political parties have been calling for a new government, perhaps consisting of experts instead of politicians. They argue that the Amato government, which came to power at the end of June 1992, is too closely connected to the discredited policies and politicians of the past to represent the Italian people today.

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