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Italian socialist Sassoli elected EU Parliament speaker

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STRASBOURG (Reuters) - The European Parliament elected Italian socialist lawmaker David Sassoli on Wednesday as its speaker for the next 2-1/2 years, completing the round of appointments for the bloc’s top jobs after EU elections in May.

Sassoli, a 63-year-old former journalist from Florence, has been a lawmaker in the EU parliament for a decade. He replaces another Italian politician, conservative Antonio Tajani, who had been speaker since 2017.

Sassoli’s election to the predominantly ceremonial role followed Tuesday’s decision by the bloc’s 28 governments to appoint German conservative Ursula Von der Leyen as European Commission president and France’s Christine Lagarde as European Central Bank head.

In his inaugural speech, Sassoli urged Europeans to counter the “virus” of extreme nationalism and called for a reform of EU rules on migration and political asylum.

He was elected after two rounds of voting, obtaining 345 votes in the 751-member assembly.

He said negotiations with Britain over Brexit should be carried out with “good sense and a spirit of dialogue and friendship”.

“For us it is painful to conceive of London far from Paris, Madrid, Berlin, Rome,” he said. Parliament’s backing is necessary to finalise the deal over Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by Catherine Evans and John Stonestreet