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Airlines dealt setback in merger-lawsuit trial

DALLAS — A federal court-appointed official says American Airlines and US Airways should not get to know the names of all people the government interviewed and what they said before the Justice Department sued to block the airlines’ proposed merger.

The official, called a special master, recommended that the federal judge hearing the case reject the request. He said the airlines were trying to learn what facts mattered to the government, which could give them insight into the Justice Department’s strategy. He said that kind of information is protected as lawyers prepare for trial.

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He also recommended that the judge largely reject the airlines’ request for information about government approval of four earlier airline mergers. He said the information was relevant to the American-US Airways deal but that most of it was protected as internal government deliberations.

‘‘We are confident in our legal position and our ability to win this case,’’ the airlines said.

The companies were close to creating the world’s biggest airline when Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit in August. The government said the merger would limit competition and bring higher prices.

A trial is set for Nov. 25.

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