Italy cabinet swearing-in marred by shooting

Italy's new coalition government was sworn in today, but a ceremony symbolising a fresh start for the recession-wracked country was overshadowed by a shooting outside government headquarters.

As Prime Minister Enrico Letta and his 21 ministers took the oath of office in the presidential palace, an unemployed man about a kilometre away opened fire on policemen guarding the headquarters, wounding two and sparking fear among tourists.

The attack cast a shadow over the swearing-in of a team meant to bring hope after over two months of bitter post-election deadlock watched closely by European partners and international investors.

Letta, from the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), was appointed by President Giorgio Napolitano after the PD won February elections but without the majority needed to govern, sparking political gridlock.

The 46-year-old, one of the European Union's youngest prime ministers, is expected to unveil his programme in a parliamentary session tomorrow, before the government is put to a confidence vote in parliament on Tuesday.

The deadlock had thwarted efforts to end the worst recession in Italy in 20 years, and Letta has said he wants to move quickly to tackle unemployment currently 11.6 per cent and boost growth.

The leftist leader also wants to move away from the austerity imposed by his technocrat predecessor Mario Monti to protect Italy from the eurozone debt crisis a promise which will be followed closely by investors concerned about Italy's USD 2.6-trillion debt mountain.

Unveiling his new cabinet yesterday, Letta said he was proud to have included younger ministers the average age is 53 and more women to help renew a tired political scene and rebuild confidence in the discredited political class.

World leaders rushed to congratulate the new prime minister, with EU president Herman Van Rompuy vowing continued support from the bloc for Rome's efforts to overcome its economic difficulties.

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