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Italy's new PM aims for eocnomic growth
New Italian PM Monti: Euro's future depends on what Italy does right now, must aim for growth
By The Associated Press

ROME (AP) ' Italy's new premier says he will aim to spur economic growth and achieve fairness in carrying out urgent measures to keep the country from financial disaster.

Mario Monti, an economist, says what Italy does in the next few weeks will determine the fate of the euro.

He says his one-day-old government will aim for "fairness" in implementing measures he has warned will mean sacrifice for Italians. He says his priorities include lowering Italy's staggering ratio of debt to GDP, now at 120 percent.



THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

ROME (AP) ' Students clashed with police across Italy in protests against budget cuts, while transport strikes idled buses and trains Thursday, as Italian Premier Mario Monti prepared to unveil his anti-crisis strategy ahead of a confidence vote in his day-old government.

Police in riot gear scuffled with students in Milan, where they planned to march to Bocconi University, which forms Italy's business elite. Monti, an economist and former European Union competition comissioner, is Bocconi's president.

Monti formed his government Wednesday, shunning politicians and turning to fellow professors, bankers and other business figures to fill key cabinet posts. His administration is tasked with restoring confidence in the country's financial future and avoiding a worsening in the eurozone's debt crisis.

But his choice of unelected experts to lead the government and the prospect of tough reforms have fueled unrest among some Italians.

"The government of the banks," read one placard held by a youth marching in the protest in Milan.

In Palermo, Sicily, demonstrators hurled eggs and smoke bombs at a bank, and protesters threw rocks at police who battled back with pepper sprays, the Italian news agency ANSA said. One protester was injured in the head in Palermo, where police charged demonstrators who were trying to occupy another bank, it said.

In Rome, hundreds of students gathered outside Sapienza University, while others assembled near the main train station. They planned to march to the Senate, where Monti was scheduled to speak ahead of an evening confidence vote on the new government.

Monti's cabinet took the place of the center-right government led for 3 1/2 years by media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, stepped down last week, the victim of markets punishing Italy for its escalating public debt and stubbornly stagnant economy.

As Berlusconi's squabbling coalition argued for months over how to attack the crisis, Italian unions and industrialists pressed for measures to encourage job creation and revive the economy.

Parliament gave final approval Saturday to a package that will reform pensions, slash state spending and open up the economy. Hours later, Berlusconi resigned, paving the way for Italy's president to ask Monti, a former European Union competition commissioner, to form a government that could tackle the crisis.

But many Italians are expecting to swallow harsher medicine, including a possible return of home property taxes which Berlusconi abolished, a special tax on wealth, and a faster increase in the retirement age.

Antonio Romano, who was distributing leaflets to protesters, said the government's strategy was to "make the workers and retired people pay for the crisis, not those who provoked the crisis, I mean big business, bankers."

"Income for all, debt for none," read the spray-painted letters on a white sheet affixed to a fence in Palermo. University and high school students, as well as young people unable to find full-time jobs joined the protest.

In Rome, marcher Titti Mazzacane said she was skeptical about the new government. While Monti chose "decent and competent people," the government ... "is a little bit too free-market liberal. I am a bit scared," said the 53-year-old elementary school teacher.

A transit strike of several hours idled the subway system and many buses in Rome. A similar walkout in Milan to press for better work contracts was also called.

State railways said a 24-hour nationwide train strike, which was called by one small union affected only 5 percent of the train rains. Train workers have been pushing for better work rules.

Alitalia warned that a four-hour strike, from noon to 4 p.m. (1100 GMT-1500 GMT) in the air travel sector could cause flight delays, and said it was reducing the number of flights as a precaution during the four-hour window. It noted that the walkout mainly involved air traffic controllers and airport workers and not Alitalia personnel.


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