ROME -- Giuliano Amato, given the nod to form a new government, is moving quickly to put together a coalition solid enough to last until elections next year.
He was in his office Saturday, making phone calls and trying to line up what he has promised will be a slimmed-down Cabinet. Amato planned to head for the Tuscan coast later in the day for the Easter holiday.
His center-left coalition hopes by then it will be better positioned to fend-off an anticipated stiff challenge at the ballot box from conservatives led by media mogul Silvio Berlusconi.
Late Friday, President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi asked Amato, who was a Socialist premier in 1992-93, to try to form Italy's 58th postwar government after majority leaders pledged to back an Amato-led coalition in the required vote of confidence in Parliament.
Coalition leaders, after meeting Friday night with Amato, predicted a government would be formed by the end of next week.
After officials backed by Berlusconi routed Premier Massimo D'Alema's candidates in regional elections on April 16, D'Alema's coalition partners agreed that the premier had to go. They decided to find a new man who could keep the coalition going till spring 2001, when parliamentary elections are due to be held.
D'Alema, a former Communist who governed for 18 months, obliged, resigning on Wednesday.
Smelling ballot-box victory, Berlusconi's camp lobbied Ciampi to call elections immediately, but were turned down by the president, who said he believed Amato's support was solid.
Amato, who had been treasury minister, was widely credited for helping Italy rein in its budget deficit.
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