ROME — President Francesco Cossiga on Thursday asked Foreign Minister Giulio Andreotti, who five times has served as prime minister of Italy, to take on the job again and put together the country's 45th government since World War II.
Cossiga had been trying since the June 27 resignation of Prime Minister Bettino Craxi to patch up a break in the five-party coalition that has ruled Italy for 34 months, a record in postwar Italy.
But continued squabbling between Craxi's minority Socialists and the dominant Christian Democrats settled into stalemate over which party's leader would head the coalition if it were to be repaired.
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Craxi reportedly was furious over Cossiga's choice of Andreotti, leader of a powerful wing of the Christian Democrat party, and political analysts said it appeared doubtful that the Socialist leader would join a new coalition under the man who served him as foreign minister for almost three years.
After Andreotti was invited to form a government, a Socialist party statement expressed "deep concern" and belittled the move as "a worsening" of the government crisis rather than a solution to it.
Following his formal 30-minute meeting with Cossiga at the ornate Quirinale presidential palace, once the home of popes, Andreotti acknowledged that the task of forming a stable and durable government will be difficult.
Although the prime minister-designate said that he would try to put the old five-party coalition back together, political observers gave him little chance, given Craxi's reluctance to join. Although the Socialists draw only about 12% of the vote in Italy, without them the other four parties to the coalition cannot muster a parliamentary majority.
"The crisis has definitely deteriorated with this move," a leading political commentator said, "and I fear that we are moving toward early parliamentary elections."
Sen. Francesco D'Onofrio, a leading Christian Democrat, called the negative Socialist reaction to the naming of Andreotti "a roadblock" in the way of a solution to the crisis.
He suggested that the alternative might be a minority government headed by Andreotti to tide the country through the summer holidays--what the Italians call a balneare, or seaside government, that exists only for that purpose before collapsing and bringing on post-holiday elections. The next regular elections are not due until 1988.
Andreotti headed Italy's most short-lived postwar government, his first, in 1972. It lasted only nine days. His last government, in 1979, lasted 11 days.