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Monti to Italian lawmakers: No alternative to austerity, growth measures; euro depends on it
ROME (AP) ' Italy's new premier urged lawmakers Monday to swiftly approve his anti-crisis remedy of new taxes, pension reforms and growth measures, saying the survival of the euro currency depends on whether Italy makes the "strong sacrifices" he is seeking.
Premier Mario Monti, an economist whose technocratic government came into office last month to save Italy from financial disaster, told Parliament "there are no alternatives" to the measures adopted Sunday by his Cabinet.
"The eyes of Europe and the world are concentrated on Italy and this hall," Monti said in his speech to the Chamber of Deputies, ahead of a similar appeal scheduled for the Senate, Parliament's upper chamber.
"The future of the euro also depends on the choices Italy will make," he said in a solemn, almost grim voice.
Italy's new leader said Parliament must do what is necessary to avoid financial disaster. He said the "strong sacrifices" would be "limited in time, distributed fairly and essential to navigate this difficult moment for society."
Monti has been under extreme pressure to come up with speedy and credible measures to persuade markets to stop betting against the common currency. Italian borrowing costs have spiked in the last few months, which could spell disaster if Italy is unable to keep up payments to service its enormous euro1.9 trillion ($2.6 trillion) debt.
Unlike Greece, Portugal and Ireland, EU nations that got bailouts after their borrowing rates skyrocketed over 7 percent, Italy is the eurozone's third-largest economy and is considered too big to be bailed out. An Italian default would be disastrous for the 17-nation eurozone and could send both Europe and the United States into recession.
Italy needs to refinance close to euro200 billion ($270 billion) in debt by May alone.
In a sign of encouragement, Monti noted that on Monday morning the critical bonds market spread between Italian government bond rates and those of benchmark German bond rates, had narrowed, crediting "the great positive attention" that his financial reforms had received.
As he laid out the sacrifices, including a return of a home property tax, a less generous pension system and a higher sales tax, the reaction in the chamber ' which overwhelmingly gave his new government a vote of confidence last month ' was generally cool. Some lawmakers heckled him.
Monti replaced Silvio Berlusconi in the premiership after the media mogul was slow to make the reforms that Europe was demanding to tame Italy's huge debt.
The initial debate following Monti's speech indicated the new premier could have a tough time. A top Berlusconi aide, lawmaker Fabrizio Chiccitto, made plain his party's displeasure over the return of the home property tax that Berlusconi had abolished.