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Talks on compensating uninjured Italy passengers

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Jan. 24, 2012: Oil recovery experts work near the hole of the grounded cruise ship Costa Concordia off the Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy. (AP)

Officials from Costa Crociere SpA met with consumer activists Thursday in an attempt to work out what could be a blanket compensation deal for uninjured passengers who were aboard the cruise ship that capsized off Italy's coast.

The deal being discussed would apply to 3,206 people from 61 countries who suffered no physical harm when the Costa Concordia hit a reef Jan. 13 after the captain made an unauthorized maneuver that brought the enormous ship too close to shore.

The offer would take into consideration the price of the ticket, any costs incurred in getting home after the disaster, the cost of items lost aboard the ship as well as damages for the ruined vacation and trauma resulting from the accident, said Furio Truzzi of the consumer group Assoutenti.

The offer would not apply to the hundreds of crew aboard the ship, the roughly 100 cases of people who were injured or the families who lost loved ones. Sixteen bodies have been recovered since the ship hit a reef carrying 4,200 people, with another 16 people still missing and feared dead.

"We are working for a collective transaction to come up with a value for damages," Truzzi said. "Each passenger can decide if this proposal is satisfactory. If it is not, they are free to react through a lawyer."

Truzzi said it was premature to discuss exact amounts of compensation. He said it would be an average and that any passenger who deemed his or her losses greater than the offer was free to counter the proposal.

"We will not close any doors," he said.

Costa has said it was in the process of reimbursing tickets and immediate expenses. Truzzi said those reimbursements did not preclude any future legal action on the part of those who were shipwrecked.

He said Assoutenti would work separately on a proposal for those who lost loved ones in the disaster and were also open to working with members of the crew if they came forward.

Truzzi said any damages agreed with Costa would be in addition to insurance policies taken out by passengers before embarking. He said 91 percent of the passengers had such policies.

Divers on Thursday were continuing the search for missing crew and passengers, although no one expected to find any more survivors.

Salvage experts were setting up operations so they could begin pumping tons of fuel off the ship starting Saturday to avert an environmental catastrophe. The stricken ship lies in pristine waters off the Tuscan coast that are prime fishing grounds and part of a protected area for dolphins and whales.

Costa is a unit of Miami-based Carnival Corp., the world's biggest cruise operator.