Citizens Communications defends itself in failed deal with Qwest

DENVER (AP) Citizens Communications on Saturday defended its actions in a $1.65 billion deal with Qwest Communications International that fell apart.

Citizens, based in Stamford, Conn., had planned to buy 530,000 rural telephone lines in nine states from Qwest, but the companies said Friday night they had terminated the deal. Neither offered an explanation.

Citizens spokeswoman Brigid Smith said Saturday the company ''has been working very, very diligently with Qwest to resolve contractual issues.''

''I know they approached it in good faith,'' she said of company officials.

Smith said she did not know the nature of the contractual issues or details of Qwest's decision.

Skip Thurman, a spokesman for Denver-based Qwest, said Friday he did not know why the deal unraveled but said the issue would probably go to arbitration.

Part of the deal was finished last year when Citizens bought 20,000 Qwest lines in North Dakota for $40 million. Qwest said that sale was not affected by Friday's action.

The original deal included telephone lines in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming.

Citizens specializes in serving rural clients. It provides basic telephone, long distance, Internet, wireless communications and cable television service. It has 1.4 million customers in 17 states.

Qwest provides local telephone service in 14 states, primarily in the West. It is also a major carrier of Internet traffic on its broadband network.

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