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The Italian government on Wednesday asked struggling automaker Fiat to say whether it intended to reopen a factory on the Italian island of Sicily after a planned year-long stoppage, Reuters reported.

Reuter said Fiat’s plans to close its plant in Termini Imerese have been a particular sore spot with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right government because the impoverished island is one of its strongest power bases.

“We have asked Fiat to do the utmost to guarantee a more certain future for the workers of Termini Imerese,” Italy’s welfare minister Roberto Maroni told parliamentary question time, according to the Reuters report.

Reuters said Fiat, Europe’s one time largest car maker has announced plans to lay a fifth of its Italian workforce – 8,100 employees –or to cut capacity due to falling sales.
Termini Imerese’s 1,800 workers are due to be out of work from December, and the plant would only reopen if demand picks up, Reuters reported.