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ROME, Dec 19 (Reuters) - The government will seek parliament's approval to hike Italy's debt by up to 20 billion euros ($20.80 billion) if state money is needed to rescue failing banks, Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said on Monday.
Italy is widely expected to have to step in to save Monte dei Paschi di Siena, which must raise 5 billion euros in fresh capital by the end of the year or face being wound down. However, sources have told Reuters that the government is also preparing to pump cash in a number of other ailing banks.
The cabinet needs parliamentary authorisation to lift national debt levels before stepping in to help any banks.
Gentiloni told reporters he hoped lawmakers would back the request of his government, which only took office last week. ($1 = 0.9615 euros) (Reporting by Crispian Balmer)