D'Alema gains crucial backing


Rome - Italy's prime minister-designate, Mr Massimo D'Alema, striving to craft a new government from an uneasy mix of Marxists and former right-wingers, gained the support yesterday of the country's respected treasury minister.

Mr D'Alema, a former communist, successfully persuaded Mr Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, treasury minister in the outgoing caretaker government, to join his team.

"I believe Ciampi's participation is a fundamental condition for the creation of a government headed by myself," D'Alema said. "Ciampi is the person whom the government and the country cannot do without, especially in the difficult and decisive phase of launching and sustaining the single European currency."