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GENEVA (Reuters) - The World Trade Organisation will probably not rule on an appeal against its judgement condemning subsidies for European plane maker Airbus until next year, WTO appellate judges indicated on Wednesday.
Under WTO guidelines the judges hearing the appeal had been due to issue their verdict within 60 days of the appeal -- filed by the European Union on July 21.
But the appellate judges said in a note circulated to WTO members that the complexity of the six-year-old case meant that deadline had been missed.
They said they would hold hearings in November and December and give an estimate after that for when the verdict would be issued -- suggesting the ruling is unlikely to come before the end of this year.
"We will hold oral hearings in this appeal in November and December 2010, and will provide thereafter an estimate for circulation of our Report," the chairman of the WTO's Appellate Body said in a note circulated to members.
The announcement, while widely expected, is a disappointment for Airbus's U.S. rival Boeing, whose own government support was condemned by WTO experts in a separate but related case last week.
Boeing had been hoping that the Airbus case would be completed -- and the illegality of Airbus subsidies confirmed -- in the coming months to bolster Boeing's position in the $50 billion (31 billion pounds) competition for new U.S. Air Force refuelling tankers.
The initial WTO ruling in June had found that the EU and member states Britain, Germany and Spain had provided prohibited export subsidies for Airbus's A380 airliner as well as a range of other illegal supports.
The United States filed a counter-appeal after the EU appeal was lodged.
In last week's ruling, WTO experts condemned aid received by Boeing in the form of NASA and Pentagon research grants, and other supports.
With appeals and possible compliance suits, the two cases could continue to run for years, and many industry experts believe the outcome will be for the two sides to resolve the dispute through negotiations, something that Airbus has been urging.
Reporting by Jonathan Lynn