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Qwest exploring sale of long-haul network-WSJ

TORONTO, April 1 (Reuters) - U.S. phone company Qwest Communications International Inc Q.N is exploring a sale of its long-haul communications network, which could be valued at $2 billion to $3 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported on its website on Wednesday.

WSJ cited people familiar with the matter.

Quest, which operates in mostly western and mid-western states, declined to comment on the report. Its shares closed up 9.7 percent to $3.75.

Qwest, like most other U.S. phone companies, is trying to deal with customers disconnecting home phones in favor of cable rivals or wireless services. It has also been struggling to pare down its debt since the technology bubble burst earlier in the decade.

Qwest’s chief financial officer had said in February that the company, which has $560 million debt maturing in 2009 and another roughly $2.2 billion due in 2010, may be able to refinance or pay back those debts earlier than expected but that it was too early to know for sure.

Qwest’s long-haul network serves as a wholesale business, carrying long-distance voice and Internet traffic for other phone carriers. (Reporting by Ritsuko Ando; editing by Carol Bishopric)