* Thousands of teachers seeking early retirement to avoid possible pension cuts have ben "punished" in a budget amendment.

Only a handful of the 70,000 teachers who had applied for retirement withdrew their applications before the closing date on March 31. This was despite pleas by the education minister, Luigi Berlinguer, urging them to stay on.

Those who went ahead now find that lump sum payments owed to them on retirement will be frozen for six months.

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