Italian President Asks Prodi to Stay As Premier

The Italian president asked Romano Prodi on Saturday to stay on as premier and face a new vote of confidence in parliament, seeking a swift end to the political crisis prompted by the government's resignation days ago.

President Giorgio Napolitano announced his decision after holding two days of talks with party leaders and receiving reassurances that Prodi had the necessary parliamentary backing.

"I will seek a vote of confidence as soon as possible, with renewed impetus and a united coalition," Prodi said after meeting with the president.

Prodi stepped down Wednesday after an embarrassing parliamentary defeat over foreign policy, including the government's plan to keep troops in Afghanistan. Defections by radical leftists, who have been voicing opposition to various government policies, were to blame.

Napolitano said that there was not sufficient support for a broad-coalition government, as demanded by former Premier Silvio Berlusconi and other conservatives. He said most party leaders agreed that early elections without a change in Italy's electoral law — which has increased the influence of small parties — was pointless.

"There was no alternative," Napolitano said.

Following the resignation, all coalition allies said they were ready to support any bids by Prodi to return to the premiership and signed up to a new detailed government program that Prodi said would be "non negotiable."

Prodi had said he would only return to office with ironclad commitments from the various parties to support government policy. He outlined his priorities in a detailed, 12-point plan that all coalition leaders have pledged to support.

Prodi said the plan calls for respecting Italy's international commitments in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

"If I am given the chance, I think it is my duty to give it another try," the premier was quoted as saying Saturday before the president's announcement in the Corriere della Sera newspaper.