The Associated Press July 15, 2011, 5:24AM ET

Italy to give final OK to austerity package

The lower house of Italy's parliament has begun discussing a euro70 billion ($99 billion) austerity package ahead of a final vote on the measures seen as crucial to averting a debt crisis in the eurozone's third largest economy.

The lower house was scheduled to hold the final vote at around 1600GMT (11 a.m. EDT) Friday.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi's government had fast-tracked approval of the measures and increased their scope after markets plummeted this week on worries over Italy's financial stability. The measures passed in the Senate on Thursday.

But some public employees and others were protesting what they say are unfair measures. And Berlusconi, criticized for remaining out of the public eye at a time of crisis, was under pressure from the opposition to resign.

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