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The timeline for closing the Navy base on La Maddalena has been moved up a few months, closing about February 2008 instead of the previously announced April 2008, according to a U.S. Navy official and an Italian news media report.

While no firm time has been announced publicly, Navy officials anticipate vacating the longtime naval base in Sardinia by the earlier date, said Lt. Cmdr. Wendy Snyder, a spokeswoman with Navy Region Europe.

“I can’t really confirm a date, but it’s supposed to be some time in February [2008],” she said.

A report by the Italian wire news service ANSA said an announcement at a Thursday meeting with Italian workers said the base would close Feb. 29, 2008.

Snyder said the base’s executive officer, Lt. Cmdr. M.E. Biery, held a town hall meeting last week with local employees, but the only definitive information he gave them was that they could count on being employed with the base through December 2007.

“There was no discussion of a time line of any kind,” Snyder said.

U.S. and Italian defense officials announced in September that the Navy would vacate the base, located on the small island of La Maddalena just off Sardinia’s northernmost tip, in early 2008, ending a 36-year history of U.S. presence there. At the time, Italian Defense Minister Arturo Parisi said the Navy would leave in April 2008.

The base is home to naval support staff, the submarine tender USS Emory S. Land and Submarine Squadron 22. No U.S. submarines are based there.

The Navy will relocate the Land in October. It is slated to sail to Bremerton, Wash., to undergo several months’ worth of repair work, officials have said.

The closure and subsequent turnover of facilities to the Italian government will affect more than 1,300 U.S. servicemembers, 88 U.S. defense civilian employees, 90 contractors, and 178 local employees, Navy officials have said.

The closing is part of the Navy’s Europewide transformation, which includes a major shift of naval forces from London to Naples, Italy, the downsizing of the facilities in Gaeta, Italy, and the closure of Naval Air Station Keflavik, Iceland.

ANSA quoted unnamed Sardinian officials saying that there are tentative plans under consideration to turn the base into a shipyard for the upkeep of ferries and mega-yachts.

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