Italy's Conte to unveil cabinet list by Wednesday

Rome (AFP) –


Italy's premier-designate Giuseppe Conte said Sunday he intended to present his new coalition cabinet by Wednesday at the latest, as he races to resolve the political crisis in the eurozone's third largest economy.

"At the start of next week -- not Monday, but Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest -- we need to be able to finish" negotiations between the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the centre-left Democratic Party, he said.

At that point Conte will present his cabinet line-up and government programme to Italy's President Sergio Mattarella.

Conte and his new ministers would then be expected to be sworn in on Thursday, before facing a parliament vote on Friday.

After public spats between the parties -- who until recently were sworn enemies -- there was now a "good working atmosphere", Conte told the Fatto Quotidiano daily via video link.

The Five Star Movement (M5S) and Democratic Party (PD) have agreed to form a new coalition to stave off new elections after hardline Matteo Salvini, head of the far-right League, pulled the plug on the government earlier this month.

There have been persistent reports that M5S head Luigi Di Miao has threatened to renege on the deal should he not be given the deputy prime minister job -- but Conte said Sunday he was concentrated on policies rather than posts.

Di Maio was given a rare public ticking off Saturday by the Movement's founder, comic Beppe Grillo, who said he was "exhausted" by the talk of who-gets-what and the M5S's insistence that its 20-point plan be respected by the PD.

- 'Choose best team' -

He lamented "this agonising... this lack of humour, of fun, of exhilaration", urging the parties in a video on his blog to "sit down at a table and be elated because (you) belong to this extraordinary moment of change".

Conte said he "shared" Grillo's feelings, while PD leader Nicola Zingaretti agreed, saying "let's change everything, and respect one another".

As far as the cabinet posts go, Conte said he would invite the M5S and PD to give him suggestions -- rather than make demands -- "so I can choose the best team".

He insisted the coalition would have a "single shared programme" where it would be difficult to distinguish which measures were championed by which party -- a bipolarity which plagued the outgoing League-M5S coalition.

Conte, a softly-spoken lawyer who was chosen as a compromise pick for prime minister after last year's general election, also denied he was the Movement's man, insisting he was neutral.

"I am not a member of the Five Star Movement, I do not participate in meetings of the leadership group, I have never met the parliamentary groups, to call me M5S seems inappropriate to me," he said.

However, he admitted "I am close to them, I have known them a long time, I work well with the M5S".

Conte's proximity to the Movement has seen the PD insist they should have their pick of deputy prime minister.