ROME (Reuters) - Italian officials on Monday held a preliminary meeting to discuss the partial privatization of state rail operator Ferrovie dello Stato (FS), the Economy Ministry said.

A statement said the working group, which included representatives of the ministry, the railway, and legal and financial advisors, discussed regulatory issues and other topics.

Italy is expected to conclude the sale of a first stake next year.

Ferrovie dello Stato is one of several state assets earmarked for partial sale in a drive to lower Italy's huge public debt.

Italy has chosen Bank of America Merrill Lynch as adviser.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella, editing by David Evans)