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Italian economy minister calls end to recession this year: press

Italy's Economy Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni smiles at the start of an euro zone finance ministers meeting in Brussels May 13, 2013. REUTERS
Italy's Economy Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni smiles at the start of an euro zone finance ministers meeting in Brussels May 13, 2013. REUTERS

MILAN (Reuters) - Italy's economy will begin emerging from its longest slump since World War Two in the fourth quarter of this year and should grow through 2014, Economy Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni said.

Asked when Italy would exit the recession, Saccomanni told Rome daily Il Messaggero in an interview published on Sunday: "By the end of this year.

"The signs can already be seen in this third quarter, the fourth quarter should see the first positive number. And the whole of 2014 will be positive."

Italy has been in recession since mid-2011 and the country's central bank expects gross domestic product to contract by around 2 percent in 2013 and grow by about 0.5 percent in 2014.

The Rome government, which faces the challenge of reviving the economy while keeping the public deficit within EU-mandated limits, has a 1.3 percent growth forecast for 2014. Most analysts and European authorities see that as too optimistic.

The European Commission recommended in May that Italy be removed from the EU's excessive deficit blacklist, ending strict monitoring of Italian finances which began when it breached the 3 percent-of-GDP limit in 2009.

Saccomanni said now it was no longer blacklisted, Italy had more money to spend for investments and pay arrears the state owes to firms, provided it did not breach the threshold.

Italy is also under pressure to bring down its public debt, which at a projected level of around 130 percent of GDP this year is the second highest in the euro zone after Greece.

Saccomanni said the government would move ahead with plans to use the sale of state properties to cut the debt, though estimates Rome could reap 400 billion euros from the sale of state assets were too high.

"We will start with real estate... it will not be an easy or quick job... but it is right to get going to give a concrete signal to the market," the minister told the newspaper.

He declined to comment on whether stakes held by the state in companies such as Eni , Finmeccanica and Enel could be sold as part of the debt reduction plan.

In a wide-ranging interview, he also said he met his Swiss counterpart last week and they had agreed to resume negotiations on bank transparency and tax evasion in the autumn.

"The aim is that they give us a list of our compatriots who have capital in Switzerland, and we will tax them," he said.

(Reporting by Silvia Aloisi; Editing by John Stonestreet)

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