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Qwest Communications has filed the first of an expected series of protests against the SBC Communications-AT&T merger, telling California regulators the merger would hurt consumers and businesses.

Qwest also asked the California Public Utilities Commission to examine the SBC-AT&T merger along with a proposed union of MCI Inc. and Verizon Communications.

"It is difficult to see how these two transactions could ever be found to be in the public interest," said Qwest, which has been spurned in its multiple efforts to buy MCI.

Denver-based Qwest Communications International plans to file additional protests as other states begin considering the mergers.

"We're likely to file where we believe industry concentration threatens competitive and customer interests," spokesman Bob Toevs said.

SBC spokesman Dave Pacholczyk said Qwest "seems to be of two minds. They want to merge with MCI, but they don't want us to merge with AT&T. We're mystified by the contradiction," he said.

The filing comes as Qwest continues to weigh its options for the pursuit of the Ashburn, Va.-based MCI.

Earlier this month, MCI rebuffed Qwest's $8.9 billion buyout offer in favor of a $7.5 billion deal with New York-based Verizon, the predominant local phone company in the Northeast.