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PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ The region's largest transit union will refrain from striking for an indefinite period at the request of Mayor John F. Street, the union leader said.

A strike would shut down buses, subways and trolleys that are used daily by nearly half a million people.

Transport Workers Union Local 234 leader Harry Lombardo said he explained his union's position to Street on Thursday night, and no strike is planned as long as the mayor is working to solve the labor dispute.

``He didn't ask me for any particular length of time,'' Lombardo said.

``We are pleased that the threat of a strike has been lifted for the time being,'' said Fran Egan, assistant general manager of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. ``We welcome Mayor Street's involvement.''

Lombardo said negotiations were continuing in a businesslike, professional manner. Earlier Thursday, SEPTA chairman Pat Deon told WPVI-TV he was optimistic about reaching an agreement.

The rising cost of health care is the major issue in the talks, which started Feb. 1. The union has 5,000 members.

SEPTA wants workers to help pay for health care expenses, which the agency says could rise from $41 million to $55 million in the next year. The union says SEPTA workers should not have to pay extra.

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On the Net:

SEPTA: http://www.septa.org

Transport Workers Union Local 234: http://www.twulocal234.org