WASHINGTON - The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority sought court action yesterday to prevent it from having to make a $43 million termination payment on a sale-leaseback deal guaranteed by American International Group Inc. Meanwhile, House committee leaders pushed for federal assistance for more than 30 of the nation's largest transit agencies "at risk of default and financial collapse" because of similar deals.

WMATA filed a request for a temporary restraining order against KBC Bank NV of Belgium and Wilmington Trust Co. in the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, after KBC Bank demanded their termination payment by the end of this week. The sale-leaseback deal was closed in September 2002 and financed 36 rail cars, but it technically defaulted after AIG lost its triple-A rating.

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