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US wants to delay trial in airline merger

DALLAS — The US government wants to wait until March for a trial on its lawsuit aimed at blocking the merger of American Airlines and US Airways, a deal that would create the world’s biggest airline.

The airlines want to start the trial in November. They had hoped to close the merger next month, but that was before the Justice Department and six states filed the antitrust case two weeks ago.

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The Justice Department said in a court filing Tuesday that given the stakes in the merger, it needs until March 3 to develop evidence and prepare. It accused the airlines of rushing.

In a written statement, AMR and US Airways Group Inc. said that the government’s request was slow and unreasonable after a Justice Department investigation that they say lasted 16 months.

‘‘Unnecessary delays also prevent American’s financial stakeholders, which includes creditors, shareholders, and employees, from realizing the benefits and improved certainty that will come from American’s emergence from Chapter 11,’’ they said.

The Justice Department said that the airlines shouldn’t use the bankruptcy case to justify a quick trial on the antitrust lawsuit.

It said that AMR and US Airways knew all along that an antitrust challenge was possible.

Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the federal judge in Washington, D.C., who is hearing the case, plans to hold a conference on the trial schedule Friday.

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