Rome: Italy's under-pressure cabinet met on Sunday a day ahead of schedule to launch a package of far-reaching budget cuts and pension reforms aimed at resolving the financial crisis threatening the eurozone.
   
The cabinet's adoption of the measures had been scheduled for Monday but Prime Minister Mario Monti brought the meeting forward in a bid to finalise the budget before the markets open on Monday.

Monti was scheduled to outline the 24 billion euro (USD 32 billion) package, expected to include housing and luxury goods taxes, at a press conference at 2330 IST.
   
Final approval by the Parliament is expected by the start of the Christmas recess on December 23.
   
Italy is under intense pressure from the international community and investors to introduce measures to rein in public finances ahead of a crucial European Union summit on Thursday and Friday.
   
"We're faced with an alternative between the current situation, with the required sacrifices, or an insolvent state, and a euro destroyed perhaps by Italy's infamy," Monti said ahead of the cabinet meeting.
   
"The situation is grave and the Italian situation is being followed in Washington, Beijing and Tokyo," the mayor of the city of Bari, Michele Emiliano, quoted Monti as saying during talks on Sunday.
   
Monti's package is set to include an increase on housing tax that would bring in up to 12 billion euros as well as a tax on luxury goods such as high-performance cars and yachts.
   
Another increase in value-added tax, which was raised by one percentage point to 21 percent in September, is also on the cards.
   
Italy has already adopted two austerity packages this year and is aiming to restore a balanced budget by 2013 in line with EU demands.
   
The pension reform will reportedly increase the number of years that Italians have to pay their dues to receive a full pension from the current 40 years and bring forward an increase in the women's pension age.
   
Monti's technocratic, unelected government was installed after his flamboyant predecessor Silvio Berlusconi was forced out by a parliamentary revolt from his own party's ranks and a wave of panic on financial markets.
   
The former top European Union commissioner, who is a widely-respected free-market economist, has raced to shore up support for his reforms from across the political spectrum and from Italy's powerful trade unions.


(Agencies)