As tensions over conflict of interest in Italy continue to escalate, parliament leader Pierferdinando Casini has announced that state broadcaster Rai's new management will not be appointed until next week. The contracts of the current management, headed by Roberto Zaccaria, expire on Friday.

The leading contender for the top position at Rai appears to be Carlo Rossella, a respected journalist and editor of weekly magazine Panorama, which is published by Berlusconi's Mondadori group. However, a number of leading Rai journalists have openly criticized Rossella's candidacy, saying that he is too closely linked to Berlusconi.

Explaining the delay in the appointments, which were expected to be announced this week, Casini said the names of managers would only be announced after the state's Commission for Constitutional Affairs had voted on the conflict-of-interest law which Berlusconi presented to Parliament last week.

The proposed law, which states that the national watchdog should monitor conflicts of interest between the personal and public interests of Berlusconi, who owns Rai's number one rival Mediaset, and other government officials, has already met with heavy criticism from Berlusconi's opponents who deem the law and its political - rather than financial - sanctions to be inefficient. (ScreenDaily, February 7).

However, according to inside reports, the delay in Rai appointments was primarily due to National Alliance government minister Gianfranco Fini's rebuttal of a board of directors which does not include a member of his far-right party.

Earlier this week, another government minister, Umberto Bossi, threatened to withdraw from the government coalition if his federalist party, the Northern League, is not represented on Rai's 5-member board of directors.

In a veiled reference to Rai appointments, Italian president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi on Wednesday urged Italian politicians to "stop fighting." "Political and social dialogue is necessary," Ciampi said, "but if it passes a certain limit, it becomes an obstacle to growth."