Rome, February 28 - Former Premier Silvio Berlusconi's erstwhile dream of building a bridge across the Strait of Messina, connecting mainland Italy to Sicily, looks likely to remain just that after Industry Minister Corrado Passera on Thursday said the contract agreement it was seeking to hammer out with a general contractor expires Friday. "In November we made a decree which set the conditions under which we could keep the project open. We gave ourselves four months, until March 1, to reformulate the deal with the general contractor and up till now, unfortunately, there have been no concrete signs of a willingness to proceed as the law set out, so the contract will come to an end," Passera said. In November a Chinese group, China Communication Construction Company, was reported to be interested in the 8.5-billion-euro project to build the bridge. Pietro Ciucci, the chief executive of the Italian firm charged with studying the project's feasibility, said at the time that there was a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese group but said it was "not a contract or commitment, but it shows there is interest on the part of the market" for the bridge's construction.