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Officials disagree about Berlin airport opening

After two delays, a new Berlin airport is now scheduled to open in March 2013. Or maybe not. Officials have begun a war of words in the press about the scheduled opening date a few days before an airport board meeting.

The chairman of Germany's Federal Transportation Committee said on Tuesday that Berlin's new airport is not on schedule to open on time. A new date - which would mean the third delay - would be announced this week, the federal transportation chairman Anton Hofreiter added.

"As far as I know, March 17, 2013 is off the table and the board of directors will discuss how things will proceed from here and whether a new date can be named," Green party politician Hofreiter told the German news agency dapd.

The airport and Berlin government denied Hofreiter's assertion, saying that everything was on schedule for review at the board of directors' session at the end of the week.

"The situation hasn't changed," Berlin senate speaker Richard Meng told dapd.

A third point of view emerged from industry experts amid Tuesday's back and forth: the board of directors would announce another delay, but would not suggest a new opening date.

The airport's technical director, Horst Amann, had reportedly determined that he would need several more months of testing the facility before confirming any date, according to an anonymous source that spoke to Reuters news agency.

The opening of Berlin-Brandenburg airport, which lies southeast of the city center in nearby Schönefeld, has been delayed twice due to planning difficulties. A third delay would require the airport to borrow millions more in loans.

kms/msh (dapd, Reuters, dpa)