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ROME - Romano Prodi became Italy's new prime minister again yesterday, ten years to the day since being sworn in the first time.

"It is a pretty remarkable fact," Prodi remarked of the coincidence of dates, "but today is not a Friday... Many things have happened (in those years) but what remains is a powerful desire and effort for renewal."

He stood beaming under the vast chandeliers of the Quirinale, the presidential palace, as Italy's new head of state, President Giorgio Napolitano, swore his ministers in.

The economics professor-turned-politician who also served as president of the European commission heads a government which includes two other former prime ministers: Massimo D'Alema, the post-communist who takes foreign affairs, and Giuliano Amato, interior minister.

It includes six women ministers, a record for an Italian government and four more than Mr Berlusconi's administration, though Prodi said he wanted to see more women ministers in the future.

Yesterday's ceremony came after days of negotiations as Prodi attempted to satisfy his vastly diverse coalition, which includes reformed and unreformed communists, Christian Democrats, and the anti-clerical, anti-communist "radicals" of the Rose in the Fist party "It's a solid line-up," commented James Walston, professor of Political Science at the American University in Rome.

"Prodi has done what governments have to do, giving power to people who have to have it while trying to get your policies through. In Lyndon Johnson's phrase, you need to have people inside the tent pissing out, not the other way around."

The key appointment was making Fausto Bertinotti, the unreformed communist leader, speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, one of the four highest positions in the state: it was Bertinotti who brought his government down in 1998.

Silvio Berlusconi, who was at Palazzo Chigi, the premier's official residence, for the handover, made no comment on the new government.

Sandro Bondi, national coordinator of Berlusconi's party, Forza Italia, said, "This is government of the parties and for the parties, not at the service of the general interests of the country."

But Professor Walston commented, "It is significant that the most important post, finance minister, has gone to Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, who belongs to no party and therefore has no party to push him around."

Padoa Schioppa, an MIT-trained economist formerly with the European Central Bank, has been called the "founding father of the Euro."

- INDEPENDENT