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P. M. BRIEFING : Italy Seeks Delay of Plant Closures

<i> From Times wire service</i> s

Italy has asked the European Commission to postpone the controversial closure of three steel plants, saying there has been an upturn in the steel market.

A government spokesman said today that Italy wanted the closure of a blast furnace at Bagnoli near Naples to be delayed a year, until the end of June, 1990. It wanted similar delays at plants in Turin and Sesto San Giovanni near Milan, both due to shut at the end of this month. The Bagnoli closure plan, involving the loss of 2,000 jobs, sparked rioting in Naples in January, with angry workers setting fire to buses and stoning trains.

The government has pledged state money to provide new jobs and retraining in an area where unemployment is already high, but this has done little to defuse union opposition.

Other European governments that have already cut back sharply on their own loss-making steel production say the capacity cuts in Italy are needed to help make the European steel industry competitive.

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