Italy's Prodi finalized his Cabinet

Italian Premier-designate Romano Prodi said he had finalized his Cabinet and expected to form a government on Wednesday. "The Cabinet list is wrapped up and it ended well," Prodi said early Wednesday after emerging from a final session with his allies which had begun Tuesday night.

Prodi must return to the presidential palace to inform the new head of state, President Giorgio Napolitano, who gave him the formal mandate on Tuesday, that he is ready to form a government. A swearing-in ceremony would quickly follow.

Then, five weeks after narrowly wining parliamentary elections, Prodi and his allies can finally get down to the business of governing and end the political limbo that followed his victory in bitterly contested elections. The 66-year-old Prodi already served as premier between 1996 and 1998, when his government was brought down after a Communist ally withdrew support. He then served as European Commission president, the EU's top job.

His Cabinet picks were expected to include Tommaso Padoa Schioppa, a former member of the executive board of the European Central Bank, as economy minister, a crucial job amid Italy 's zero-growth economy. Berlusconi on Tuesday evening vowed to lead a strong opposition in the legislature, and predicted that by next year there would be a united, center-right party, called the Freedom Party, pulling together the frequently squabbling forces that had made up his five-year-long government, reports the AP.

N.U.