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Coalition partners back Prodi to stay in office

The Italian premier has won the backing from coalition parties to continue in office.

world Updated:

Italy's Prime Minister Romano Prodi, who resigned earlier this week, has won the backing from parties in his ruling coalition to continue in office, his spokesman said on Friday.

The spokesman Silvio Sircana said the parties had agreed at late night crisis talks on a "non-negotiable" 12-point political plan aimed at defusing the crisis created by Prodi's stepping down, after just nine months in office.

Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema said that by agreeing to the plan the coalition partners had given Prodi "a strong mandate to continue the government's work".

Prodi is due to meet later Friday with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, who has been widely expected to rename Prodi as prime minister.

Prodi, whose fragile centre-left coalition narrowly won elections last April, tendered his resignation after losing a vote on Wednesday centring on Italy's military engagement in Afghanistan.

Two communist senators in Prodi's coalition who are staunchly opposed to the deployment, as well as the planned enlargement of a US military base in Vicenza, northern Italy, tipped the balance with their crucial "no" votes.

Prodi, head of Italy's 61st government since World War II, was also prime minister for two years and five months in 1996-98, falling when communists withdrew their support.

Among the points on the plan agreed by the nine coalition partners late on Thursday are respect for Italy's foreign commitments, including in Afghanistan.

The president also has the option of choosing a new government leader from the centre-left coalition, appointing a technocrat government or dissolving parliament and calling new elections.