updated 4/7/2009 6:50:50 PM ET 2009-04-07T22:50:50

The National Park Service has decided to acquire the mineral rights on a major portion of land at the Flight 93 crash site in western Pennsylvania to help ensure memorial construction isn't delayed.

Just who would retain the oil and gas rights — the landowner or the government — was one of the last open issues in negotiations.

In February, government officials and representatives of the passengers and crew killed when the plane crashed on Sept. 11, 2001, pledged to dedicate a memorial by the 10th anniversary of the attacks. The pledge was made after an agreement was reached when the owner of a key parcel of 275 acres for the site — including the impact site — agreed to allow the court to decide the value.

As part of the agreement, the government and the landowner, Svonavec Inc., were each given the option to explore the possibility of the landowner keeping the mineral rights.

The National Park Service has since decided the government should hold those rights, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press. It said doing so is necessary "in order to preserve the sacred nature of the memorial," and it will ask a federal court to determine the value of the mineral rights.

Patrick White, vice president of the Families of Flight 93, said in a statement that the group is hopeful that the government will acquire the land as soon as possible.

"The NPS and the families continue to have access to the site, granted by Svonavec Inc., and we believe that the acquisition will proceed in a timely manner," the statement said.

United Flight 93 was traveling from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco when it was diverted by hijackers with the likely goal of crashing it into the White House or Capitol. The official 9/11 Commission report said the hijackers crashed the plane as passengers tried to wrest control of the cockpit.

All 33 passengers and seven crew members died.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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