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Alitalia sees 'ray of hope'

The Italian transport minister, Altero Matteoli, expressed optimism regarding Thursday's government-union talks over the state of beleaguered airline Alitalia.

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Labor unions at Italian airline Alitalia have been called to a meeting Thursday with the government, an official statement said late Wednesday after the transport minister spoke of a "ray of hope" for the faltering carrier.

"A ray of hope has reappeared," Altero Matteoli said. The meeting with the nine unions is scheduled for 0900 GMT.

Opposition leader Walter Veltroni later told a television news interviewer he was "optimistic" that the crisis shaking Alitalia could be resolved.

Alitalia, 49.9 percent state-owned, is haemorrhaging some three million euros a day, with a debt of around 1.2 billion euros (1.7 billion dollars), and is facing bankruptcy.

The airline's special administrator, Augusto Fantozzi, on Thursday is to present a cost-cutting plan to Italy's civil aviation authority, ENAC, that calls for a reduction in the number of flights.

The company has been looking for a buyer for months to no avail. Investors grouped in the CAI, the Italian Air Company, called off takeover talks on September 18 after their restructuring plan for Alitalia had been rejected by six of the nine unions.

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