Italy parliament backs government ahead of austerity vote

ROME (Reuters) - Italy's lower house of parliament voted in favor of a motion of confidence in the government on Friday called to support passage of a 48 billion euro austerity package due to be formally approved later in the evening.

The mix of spending cuts and tax measures, aimed at protecting Italy from a full scale financial crisis and ensuring the government reaches its target of balancing the budget by 2014, was approved by the Senate Thursday.

It has passed through parliament with unusual speed after the opposition said it would not hold up the package with delaying tactics because of the risk the tensions seen on financial markets in recent days could spiral out of control.

(Writing by James Mackenzie)