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Qwest Chief Touts Dangers Of Telecom Consolidation

DENVER (AP) Qwest Communications' chief is pitching his company's pursuit of MCI Inc., sketching an alternate scenario of a consolidated telecommunications industry in which behemoths SBC and Verizon control most corporate business accounts and competition suffers.

``What's happening here before our eyes, depending on what the government does, is that we're not consolidating -- we are concentrating market power, potentially,'' Qwest Chairman and CEO Dick Notebaert said in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press, discussing the wave of telecom mergers since December.

``My concern, and I think the concern that the policy-makers should have, is that bigness does not equal better.''

Qwest is battling Verizon Communications as a suitor for MCI, which has accepted Verizon's $6.7 billion offer but faces pressure from some key shareholders to weigh the revised _ and more lucrative offer _ expected from Denver-based Qwest Communications International Inc. as soon as this week. Last week, MCI's board rejected Qwest's $8 billion bid in favor of a $6.7 billion offer from Verizon.

Notebaert declined to discuss the new bid _ which could come as early as this week. Qwest offers local telecommunications services in a 14-state region of the Midwest and West.

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