Italy: Senate approves constitutional reform

The Italian Senate gave final approval Wednesday to a disputed constitutional reform pushed by Premier Silvio Berlusconi's government - the first major change to Italy's constitution since it came into force in 1948.

As the measures passed parliament's upper house, applause broke out among Berlusconi's conservative forces, who have a majority in parliament. The center-left opposition bitterly contested the reform, and vowed to call a referendum to overturn it, the AP reports.

The 170-132 vote, with three abstentions, came at the end of a tense session and was the last in a series of parliamentary approvals necessary to make changes to the constitution.

The reform was pushed by the autonomy-minded Northern League, a small partner in Berlusconi's center-right coalition. League leader Umberto Bossi - an ex-Reforms minister who gave up his Cabinet post and has been sidelined since suffering a stroke in March 2004 - made a rare public appearance at the Senate for the session. A.M.

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