(AGI) Rome, Dec. 12 - Italy must pass reforms or decline, saidPrime Minister Matteo Renzi as workers took to the streets in ageneral strike against his government's labour reforms. He toldthe Italy-Turkey Economic Forum on Friday: "Politicians musthave the courage to pass reforms, especially in Italy, wherechange is essential." Public administration, taxes and thejustice system were the main areas requiring reforms, he said."If we really change things, our children will be proud of us.... There is only one thing that we must do together: dare tobe proud of our past but also have at heart the future of ourcountry." His pitch was soft-spoken, but his words werenonetheless resolute: "We must muster the courage to change. Wecan't pretend and think that things will change by sweeping thedirt under the carpet ... delaying reforms means condemningItaly to a slow decline." Despite his soft tones, the mood wastense ahead of Sunday's National Assembly, which the primeminister and leader of the Democratic Party (PD) sees as theforum for a confrontation with dissenting members of his party.The "political signals" of dissent arose when the governmentlost a vote at the Reform Committee. PD dissident, GianniCuperlo said: "Does Renzi want obedience? He only needs to saythe word. As far as I'm concerned, if he asks me to forfeit myseat as an MP, I will tender my resignation a minute later andreturn to him what he obviously considers to be his personalproperty. I think that, in that case, he should also change thename of the PD. ... The words attributed to Renzi reflect anunjustifiable impatience. Parliament's sovereignty calls forrespect. To downplay other people's convictions as propagandaand threaten, as some rumoured, a settlement of accounts on theseats, leaves me dumbfounded. I want to tell Renzi that wedon't all reason only in terms of seats. There are alsoopinions and consistencies," he said. . .