Italian president's office defends selection of wise men

Panel to begin work Tuesday on political impasse

Italian president's office defends selection of wise men

(By Sandra Cordon) Rome, April 1 - Italian President Giorgio Napolitano carefully and objectively chose his 10 "wise men" to try to set the country's political course, a spokeswoman said Monday. "It was not generic 'wise men' but instead, specific people were chosen using objective criteria based on their previous work or role," Pasquale Cascella, who speaks for the head of state, said on Twitter. Napolitano has come under criticism over his appointment of ten so-called wise men asked to find a way out of Italy's political deadlock. The president appointed the committee on Saturday, two days after Pier Luigi Bersani, head of the Democratic Party, was unable to cobble together a government as ordered by Napolitano. Bersani's centre-left alliance came first in February's national election but failed to win a working majority in the Senate. Cascella also denied rumours that Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, had called Napolitano urging him not to quit over the situation. The panel is made up of five members from political parties. The other half is composed of five senior institutional figures - Enrico Giovannini, the head of statistics agency ISTAT, European Affairs Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi, Bank of Italy board member Salvatore Rossi, Constitutional Court President Valerio Onida and Competition Authority head Giovanni Pitruzzella, who have been given several tasks, including proposing changes to election laws to avoid another hung Parliament in future. However, members of ex-premier Silvio Berluscon's People of Freedom (PdL) party suggested the wise men should stick to settling on a replacement for caretaker Premier Mario Monti. "We believe that the first priority is to give the country a government," Roberto Formigoni of the PdL said Monday.

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