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Italy's Senate to Hold Confidence Vote Over 2007 Budget

The government's 2007 budget is put to a confidence vote Friday in the Italian Senate, where Premier Romano Prodi's center-left forces hold a one-seat majority.

Italian governments often resort to confidence votes in hopes of speeding passage of legislation and closing ranks among coalition lawmakers. If a government loses a vote of confidence, it must resign.

Prodi's government decided to put the measures to confidence vote as the 2007 budget must be passed by parliament by the end of the year. If approved, the measures need to return to the lower house, which would have to pass the Senate's changes.

The center-left government has a one-seat advantage in the Senate, but it can often count on the support of an independent senator and of most of the half-dozen senators-for-life -- former presidents and citizens appointed for their life achievements.

The government's planned 2007 budget has been criticized -- including by some of the coalition members -- for its tax increases and spending cuts. It has led to protests by public sector workers opposed to proposed cuts.

The budget is aimed at spurring growth and bringing the Italian deficit to within 3% of gross domestic product by next year to meet European Union commitments. It calls for 35 million euros ($46 million) in revenue-raising measures.