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Alitalia could ground to a halt within days

Troubled Alitalia could see its licence suspended within three or four days, according to the country's civil aviation chief. Unless a fast money plan rescues this crippled airline, its planes will be grounded.

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Alitalia could be grounded within four days if the troubled airline does not come up with a cost-reduction plan, Italy's civil aviation head said Monday.

"Alitalia is flying with a temporary licence," Vito Riggio said on Italian radio ahead of a meeting with the near-bankrupt airline's administrator. "If a financial plan does not arrive within three or four days, the licence will be suspended."

Riggio was to meet with Alitalia's administrator Augusto Fantozzi on Monday as the Italian flagship published a call on its website for bids from investors with a September 30 deadline.

Last week the Italian Air Company (CAI) consortium withdrew its one billion euro (1.4 billion dollar) offer for Alitalia, reopening speculation over a possible foreign takeover.

Six of the airline's nine trade unions rejected a deal that would have led to 3,250 job losses.

On Sunday, Italian Transport Minister Altero Matteoli said that without a deal Alitalia flights could be grounded in less than a week.

He told the business daily Il Sole 24 Ore that Alitalia's licence could be withdrawn "in five or six days" and described CAI's offer as "the only option" to save the company.

Alitalia is losing some three million euros a day, with a debt of around 1.2 billion euros.

Meanwhile, press reports said Israeli officials had seized Alitalia bank accounts and other assets in Israel, where the airline's debt amounts to some 350 million euros.

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