ROME Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta urged parliament to back his deputy in a no-confidence vote on Friday which threatens to throw his fragile coalition into a political crisis.
"What I am asking you for is a new vote of confidence in the government which I have the honor to lead," he told the Senate before a vote on the motion against Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, who is also deputy prime minister.
The vote against Alfano, secretary of Silvio Berlusconi's center-right People of Freedom party (PDL), which governs in an uneasy partnership with Letta's center-left Democratic Party (PD), was called after the hurried deportation of the family of a dissident Kazakh oligarch.
The vote is expected in the early afternoon.
Letta said the widely criticized operation had piled embarrassment and discredit on Italy but he added that a police report had shown that Alfano was not involved.
The expulsion of the wife and six-year-old daughter of fugitive oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov after a midnight police raid on their villa in Rome has thrown Letta's government into its deepest crisis since it was formed in the wake of last February's deadlocked elections.
PDL officials said before the vote the government would fall if Alfano were forced to resign, an outcome President Giorgio Napolitano said on Thursday would have "irreversible" consequences for Italy on financial markets.
Alfano told parliament this week he had not been informed by his officials of the May raid and deportation order, which the government has since reversed, and his chief of staff has resigned over the affair.
But doubts remain over an operation which United Nations' human rights experts have compared to an "extraordinary rendition" similar to the now-banned abduction of U.S. terrorism suspects to countries where they could be tortured.
(Reporting By James Mackenzie; Editing by Barry Moody and Andrew Heavens)