updated 3/18/2004 7:06:02 AM ET 2004-03-18T12:06:02

The European Union antitrust chief said Thursday settlement talks with Microsoft Corp. had failed and he would propose that a precedent-setting ruling against the U.S. software giant be adopted next week.

"We made substantial progress toward resolving the problems that had arisen in the past but we were unable to agree on commitments for future conduct," EU Competition Commissioner Mario Monti said. "In the end I had to ... decide what was best for competition and consumers in Europe." (MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)

He said he would also propose a fine when the decision is adopted on Wednesday.

Monti had been insisting that any settlement with Microsoft go beyond the draft ruling in changing the U.S. software giant's business tactics as the price for avoiding a precedent-setting finding of monopolistic abuses, sources familiar with the case said earlier.

Specifically, he was seeking commitments that could make a settlement more global and help resolve other antitrust cases currently pending against Microsoft that address similar issues, the sources said on condition of anonymity.

At his news conference, Monti said he decided "competition and consumers will be better served with a decision that creates a strong precedent.

"It is essential to have a precedent that will set clear principles ... for the future conduct of a company with such a strong dominant position in the market," he said.

Monti, however, praised the "constructive and cooperative spirit" and "high degree of professionalism" of the Microsoft negotiating team, which over the past two days included Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer himself.

There was no immediate reaction from a Microsoft spokesman in Brussels.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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