Italy’s economic reform program

U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday called new Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, offering U.S. support for the steps that Italy is taking to advance its economic reform program.

In their phone talks, Obama congratulated and thanked Monti for taking on “such a significant responsibility at a critical time,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters at a regular news briefing.

“The president expressed his full confidence in Italy’s strength and vibrancy, and underscored America’s support for the steps that Italy is taking to advance its economic reform program, ” Carney said, adding Obama also reaffirmed “the close alliance and friendship” between the two countries.

Obama said last month that the eurozone debt troubles were “scaring the world” and becoming the largest obstacle to recovery in the United States.

Monti, a respected economist and former EU commissioner, took office last week and his government is expected to implement the austerity policies asked by the EU to cut Italy’s massive debt of 1.89 trillion euros (2.57 trillion U.S. dollars), and regain markets’ confidence amid international fears that the country may become the fourth victim of the eurozone debt crisis and seek a bailout.

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