CHICAGO (AP) _ United Airlines' flight attendant leaders, who had withdrawn from employee buyout talks, wanted to rejoin the effort Wednesday as ground crew and pilot unions resumed talks with the airline.

The Air Line Pilots Association said the flight attendants were welcome to join the talks on Thursday, but Wednesday's meeting was to discuss how the pilot and Machinists union talks fell apart last month and how they could be resumed.

''We regret to report that ... our participation was not welcome at this meeting,'' a spokesman for the Association of Flight Attendants said in a recorded message to union members.

After being left out of the Wednesday talks, the union had not decided whether to join the talks on Thursday. However, a source familiar with the situation, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the flight attendants would be returning ''shortly.''

The flight attendants left negotiations Sept. 30 when United Airlines opened a foreign base for attendants in Taiwan, a decision bitterly opposed by the union.

Now the flight attendants say they want to re-enter negotiations as full partners with the pilots and ground workers.

Negotiations broke down Nov. 12 when the airline rejected the latest union offer and concluded a deal to sell 15 flight kitchens employing nearly 5,000 Machinists members.

The Machinists and the company have had different views of the status of the flight kitchen sale. The company and Dobbs International Services, which is buying the kitchens, say the deal is binding.

The union says there is still an opportunity to prevent the final sale. Dobbs is to start taking possession of the kitchens later this month.

Neither United nor a spokesman for the unions would comment on whether any progress had been made Wednesday toward clarifying the flight kitchen issue.