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UK leader delays decision on new runway for London airports but agrees expansion is needed

LONDON – U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s government has delayed a decision on whether to build a new runway at Heathrow or Gatwick airports near London, arguing that airport officials need to provide more information on environmental concerns.

Cameron had promised a firm decision by the end of this year on whether to choose Heathrow or Gatwick for airport expansion. But in recent weeks, speculation has been building that such a decision would be delayed, in part because of environmental issues raised in a Parliamentary report earlier this month.

Britain’s secretary for transport, Patrick McLoughlin, says the “case for aviation expansion is clear – but it’s vitally important we get the decision right so that it will benefit generations to come. We will undertake more work on environmental impacts, including air quality, noise and carbon.”

This is an urgent update. AP’s earlier story is below.

Prime Minister David Cameron and key members of his government will hold a closed-door session to consider their response to contentious proposals to build a new runway at Heathrow Airport.

Cameron had promised a firm decision by the end of this year on whether to choose Heathrow or Gatwick for London-area airport expansion. Business leaders argue Britain needs more airport capacity to keep the economy growing.

But there is opposition to the Heathrow plan from environmentalists and politicians with nearby constituencies.

Thursday’s meeting comes amid speculation that a decision will be delayed, in part because of environmental issues raised in a parliamentary report earlier this month.

Cameron’s critics suspect he wants to delay the decision to boost the chances of Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith in London’s May mayoral election.