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Craxi Given Second Chance : Gets Mandate to Form New Italian Government

October 21, 1985|United Press International

ROME — Bettino Craxi got a second chance today to retain the post of prime minister, lost last week when his five-party coalition government collapsed over the Achille Lauro affair. He was named prime minister-designate and immediately began trying to reassemble the coalition.

Craxi, Italy's first Socialist prime minister until his resignation Thursday, was given the nod to form a new government after meeting less than 45 minutes with President Francesco Cossiga.

"I will go back to work immediately to try to resolve a political crisis that might not turn out to have easy solutions," Craxi told journalists after the meeting.

Craxi's new government would likely be a carbon copy of the previous 26-month-old coalition that linked the Socialists and the dominant Christian Democrats, along with the smaller Liberal, Social Democratic and Republican parties.

Craxi said he hoped to begin consultations today or Tuesday with each of the nation's political parties.

"I hope that the necessary clarifications and agreements can be realized rapidly . . . to guarantee the continuity of the government," he said.

Republican Party Protest

Defense Minister Giovanni Spadolini and his tiny Republican Party brought down Italy's 44th government since World War II to protest Craxi's handling of events after the Oct. 7 Palestinian hijacking of the Italian liner Achille Lauro.

Spadolini pulled his party out of the Cabinet because Craxi did not consult him before ignoring a U.S. arrest warrant and allowing Palestine Liberation Organization official Abdul Abbas, the suspected mastermind of the hijacking, to leave the country for Yugoslavia, which also refused to hold him. Abbas was brought to Italy with the four PLO hijackers of the Achille Lauro aboard an Egyptian airliner that was intercepted by U.S. Navy jets as it left Egypt and diverted to a NATO base in Sicily.

It remained unclear how long it would take Craxi to dispel the political frictions and actually form a new coalition.

Strong Disagreement

Disagreement remains among Craxi, Spadolini and other government parties on some basic policy issues--including Italy's longstanding sympathetic attitude toward the Palestinians. Spadolini also has demanded that the next government vow not to make crucial decisions without consulting all member parties and that Italy redefine its anti-terrorist strategy.

But he joined the leaders of the other four coalition parties Saturday in admitting that there was no viable alternative to a five-party government.

Letter From Reagan

Craxi was given a boost and extra bargaining power by a friendly letter Saturday from President Reagan and by a public opinion poll that showed his popularity rising.

The Makno Italian opinion poll, published by the weekly magazine Il Mondo, showed support for Craxi rising 6%--from 29% to 35%--over the last six months.

Craxi's previous coalition was the second-longest-lived government of the postwar Italian republic and one of only three postwar coalitions led by anyone other than a Christian Democrat. The other two were led by Spadolini.

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