Sicilian Governor Lombardo finally resigns

Says default talk a 'criminal, dishonest' tactic

Sicilian Governor Lombardo finally resigns

(ANSA) - Palermo, July 31 - Sicilian Governor Raffaele Lombardo finally kept his pledge to resign from office on Tuesday. Lombardo, who is facing charges of colluding with the mafia, announced in May that he intended to resign but there had been uncertainty about when he would leave his post. Earlier this month Premier Mario Monti sent a letter asking Lombardo to confirm he would quit to help end Sicily's political gridlock, stressing the urgency of the situation because the region risked defaulting on its big debts. Lombardo said on Tuesday that elections would be held on October 28 and 29 to vote in a new regional government. He said he left the post "with pride and no regrets" and that he hoped his resignation could "open a new phase" for Sicily. Lombardo has repeatedly denied suggestions Sicily is in danger of defaulting, saying it just had some liquidity problems. On Tuesday he said the default talk had been part of "dishonest, criminal political-media tactic". Last week, however, he agreed to a binding plan with central government to undergo a major spending review. According to the Italian Audit Court, the region had debts of 21 billion euros in 2011, although Lombardo disputes these figures. The Italian media have run a series of stories reporting alleged waste in the running of the region. Articles have pointed out, for example, that the Sicilian regional government employs around 20,000 people, while Lombardy, the region around Milan's financial capital Milan, employs a quarter of that number. These calculations do not include Sicily's 26,000 forest guards. Lombardy has around 460 forest guards. Prosecutors in April presented a request to try Lombardo and his brother Angelo, an MP for Lombardo's Movimento per l'Autonomia (MpA) party, for allegedly swapping votes for favors with Vincenzo Aiello, a prominent member of the powerful Catania-based Santapaola clan. Lombardo denies the accusations.

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