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US refuses to disclose WTO ruling on Boeing-Airbus row

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(WASHINGTON) - US trade officials on Friday refused to reveal the first WTO ruling on the subsidy dispute between US aviation giant Boeing and European rival Airbus, saying it is "confidential."

A trade official confirmed that the government had received Friday the confidential interim report from a World Trade Organization panel that heard the US challenge to European Union subsidies to Airbus.

"We are still reviewing the interim report, which is about 1,000 pages long," Debbie Mesloh, a spokeswoman for US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, told AFP.

"Because the interim report is confidential, we cannot discuss the contents," she said.

Mesloh said the United States was "challenging dozens of measures providing over billions of dollars in subsidies to Airbus, including launch aid to every major Airbus aircraft model.

"The dispute has proven to be one of the most complex and lengthy disputes under the WTO, she said.

The United States, Mesloh said, had always maintained that the EU governments "provided unfair subsidies to Airbus that harm US interests."

Boeing also refused to comment on the case although it had said ahead of the ruling that it would win.

"I still have not seen any government comment on this -- from either side," a spokesman for the US aerospace giant in Washington told AFP.

A spokesman for the European Trade Commissioner, Lutz Guellner, earlier refused to give details of the interim ruling's contents.

"It is important to recall that this report is only half of the story and we await the interim report in the case launched by the EU against the US, which we expect to be issued in a few months," he added.

The WTO confirmed Friday it had issued the ruling on the acrimonious dispute to US and EU officials.

In a case brought against the EU in October 2004, Washington charged that it illegally provided subsidies to Airbus.

It said an accord that allowed Brussels to provide up to a third of development costs of new airliners was no longer valid since Airbus is now a major industry player and not the fledgling firm when the deal was struck.

While Boeing and Airbus are implicated in the case, the WTO only deals in cases brought by its member states and not individual companies.

The ruling this week is one of the most complex to reach the international trade watchdog in Geneva.

Some analysts said a clear-cut judgment was unlikely given the complexity of the case.

Airbus has pointed out that there is also a ruling pending on the EU's tit-for-tat complaint against Washington over state aid to Boeing.

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