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Italy hunting a new government

Christian Democratic Prime Minister Arnaldo Forlani's four-party coalition government resigned Tuesday in a scandal over alleged espionage by a secret Masonic lodge. Mr. Forlani handed in his resignation to President Sandro Pertini, who asked him to stay on as caretaker prime minister pending consultations to form a new government.

A spokesman said the President would start the consultations Tuesday evening. After his soundings, he was expected to ask Mr. Forlani to try to form a new government.

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The center-left coalition of Christian Democrats, Socialists, Social Democrats, and Republicans resigned after Socialist leader Bettino Craxi refused to attend a meeting to agree on a Cabinet shuffle. There was speculation that Mr. Craxi might attempt to become the first non-Christian Democratic prime minister of the 35-year-old republic.

Leaders of the Christian Democratic and Republican Parties said they hoped the present coalition, which has a substantial parliamentary majority, would be restored.

The government, formed seven months ago, was Italy's 40th si nce World War II.