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Qwest Communications International boosted its bid for MCI Inc. again on Thursday, offering $8.94 billion just two days after the long-distance phone company accepted a sweetened $7.51 billion proposal from Verizon Communications.

Shares of MCI, formerly known as WorldCom, rose sharply for a third straight day as investors speculated that the biggest telecom bidding war since the Internet bubble would push the final takeover price beyond what Verizon has agreed to pay.

Soon after the new bid was disclosed, the Wall Street Journal reported that Verizon was exercising its right to force a vote by MCI investors on the merger before a special shareholder meeting scheduled for that purpose in May.

MCI said the board will review Qwest's latest offer and "respond accordingly."

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