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Berlusconi, Letta join to form Italian government

ROME -- Center-left leader Enrico Letta forged a new Italian government Saturday in a coalition with former Premier Silvio Berlusconi's conservatives, an unusual alliance of bitter rivals that broke a two-month political stalemate following inconclusive elections in the recession-mired country.

The daunting achievement was pulled off by Letta, who will be sworn in as premier along with the new cabinet at the presidential Quirinal Palace on Sunday.

Letta, 46, is a moderate with a reputation as a political bridge-builder. He is also the nephew of Berlusconi's longtime adviser, Gianni Letta, a relationship seen as smoothing over often nasty interaction between the two main coalition partners.

Serving as deputy premier and interior minister will be Berlusconi's top political aide, Angelino Alfano. He is a former justice minister who was the architect of legislation that critics say was tailor-made to help media mogul Berlusconi in his many judicial woes.

The creation of the coalition capped the latest political comeback for Berlusconi, a former three-time premier who was forced to resign in 2011 as Italy slid deeper in to the eurozone's sovereign debt crisis.

On Monday, Letta is expected to lay out his strategy to Parliament, before required confidence votes from the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.

"We negotiated for the formation of the government without throwing up any stop signs," Berlusconi told one of his TV networks.

Berlusconi, a fervent anti-Communist, views Italy's left as a personal nemesis, and Letta's Democratic Party has some of its roots in what was the West's largest Communist Party.

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