The government was scheduled to be sworn-in by President Giorgio Napolitano on Wednesday afternoon, with the first meeting of the new cabinet to take place later in the day.

As expected, former prime minister Massimo D'Alema takes the post of foreign minister and Tomasso Padoa-Schioppa, a former board member of the European Central Bank, becomes economy minister.

D'Alema, 57, will also hold one of two deputy prime ministerial positions along with Francesco Rutelli, who also takes on the post of culture minister.

The appointment of the technocrat Padoa-Schioppa is likely to be seen by the markets as a promise of measures to reduce public debt, which mushroomed under the outgoing conservative government of Silvio Berlusconi.

Problems

Prodi, a former European Commission president, was only able to complete his list after weeks of haggling within his nine-party coalition over key posts.

That lasted until the early hours of Wednesday.

"We are satisfied," Prodi said shortly before announcing his team. "Maybe not everyone is happy, but happiness is not of this world."

"We are satisfied. Maybe not everyone is happy, but happiness is not of this world"

Romano Prodi

The bickering underlines the problems Prodi is likely to face in government as he defends a razor-thin parliamentary majority after the closest Italian election in living memory.

His ministerial list featured a surprise choice of Clemente Mastella, leader of the small Catholic Udeur party, as justice minister.

Mastella, whose party holds three Senate seats, had threatened to pull out of the government if he was not handed a key ministry.
 
The government is dominated by the two biggest centre-left parties, the Democrats of the Left and the centrist Margherita, while Prodi is one of five independents.

It includes one communist, Paolo Ferrero of the Refoundation Communist party, who will have responsibility for welfare, and six women - four more than the outgoing centre-right government.

Alessandro Bianchi, who is nominally an independent closely associated with the smaller Italian Communist Party, will take charge of transport.

Justice ministry

Former anti-corruption judge Antonio Di Pietro, who led the "Clean Hands" investigation into the links between big business and politics a decade ago, has been handed the infrastructure portfolio.

Giuliano Amato, former vice-chairman of the European Convention which wrote the European Union's stalled constitution, will be interior minister in the new government.
 
Prodi said he would go before the Senate with a confidence motion on Thursday, with a vote in the upper house, where he holds a two-seat majority, likely on Friday.

A second vote of confidence is due to follow next week in the lower house chamber of deputies.