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ITALY'S PRESIDENT MOVES QUICKLY TO ESTABLISH NEW GOVERNMENT

Italy's president was pushing for a quick end to the political crisis that triggered Premier Massimo D'Alema's resignation, politicians said Sunday.

D'Alema, who stepped down Saturday night, contends he has enough backing in Parliament to forge a new, stronger government than the center-left coalition whose 11 parties spent much of their 14 months together bickering.

Early Sunday morning, Italy's head of state, President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, began sounding out leaders of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies as well as heads of political parties to see if there was a consensus on forming another coalition headed byD'Alema, a former communist.

Ciampi is "determined to give a new government to the country in a very brief time, also to guarantee the international image of Italy," said Mauro Paissan, whip for all the independents in the lower house Chamber of Deputies.

D'Alema resigned after months of squabbling over key issues such as pension reform and state aid for religious schools.

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