Berlusconi's favourite model minister quits

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Sydney, Nov 23 (ANI): Silvio Berlusconi's shaky government is about to lose another minister - a former Miss Italy contestant and men's magazine model who was a favourite of the troubled Prime Minister.

Berlusconi's prime ministership has come under fresh pressure, after his Equal Opportunity Minister Mara Carfagna announced her resignation, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

She is the fifth member of the government to leave in just over a week, after four ministers loyal to Gianfranco Fini, Berlusconi's main challenger, withdrew from the coalition.

The 34-year old former model was a TV showgirl when she was noticed by Berlusconi and catapulted to the top of the political ladder.

He rapidly made her the Minister for Equal Opportunities in 2008 and she has always been close to the 74-year-old Prime Minister.

So her announcement that she would resign after a confidence vote next month was a personal blow for Berlusconi.

Carfagna will step down on December 15, a day after Berlusconi's ailing centre-right coalition faces a no-confidence vote.

She said she would back the government in the vote but resign the next day from Parliament and also from the Prime Minister's People of Freedom Party.

"It appears that my contribution no longer carries any influence," she said.

The former starlet appears to have fallen out with Berlusconi over the lacklustre response to a crisis over uncollected rubbish in Naples, in her home region of Campania.

Berlusconi, however, shrugged off her departure and claimed he still had the support to win the confidence vote in both Houses of Parliament. (ANI)

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