ROME, July 3 -- Italian Prime Minister Lamberto Dini appealed to Parliament Monday for rapid passage of a crucial reform of Italy's pension system, warning of dire consequences if the reform was rejected. In a televised speech to the Chamber of Deputies (lower house), Dini said the country risked bankruptcy if the cost-cutting reform was not passed. 'I have come to ask you, on behalf of the government, that the pension reform be passed before the summer break, without altering its scope and purpose,' Dini said. Dini appealed to opponents of the reform to withdraw the more than 3, 500 amendments they have tabled and which could drag out the debate for weeks. He said many of the amendments were intended to preserve or even increase the current levels of pensions, 'which are among the highest in Europe and perhaps in the world.' Dini said his reform program was aimed at reining in and reorganizing 'a system which has run out control and become a mechanism for self- destruction. The dramatic appeal failed to convince Fausto Bertinotti, leader of the far left Communist Refoundation Party, who said his aim was not to delay passage of the reform but to block what he called a 'bad law.' 'You don't have to be a communist to listen to the criticisms that are coming from many sectors of the world of labor,' Bertinotti said. 'This is the first time since the war that a massive increase in profits has not been followed by a redistribution of those profits to the workers.'
Pension reform is the last and most important item of a limited program of reform that the non-partisan Dini government has promised to undertake before resigning to pave the way for fresh elections. Government officials say the current system will collapse by the year 2013 if rigorous measures are not taken to balance payments and contributions.