Qwest Communications


gave in to



Thursday, raising its cash-and-stock bid for the long-distance telco to $30 a share.

The Denver telco disclosed the move in a letter to MCI's board that was filed Thursday with securities regulators. In its letter, Qwest CEO Dick Notebaert calls the proposal Qwest's "best and final" offer. Qwest gave MCI until Saturday to accept the bid or have it withdrawn.

Pressure tactics are hardly new for Qwest, which over the last two months has taken an increasingly aggressive tone when boosting its offers for MCI.

Two weeks ago, Qwest and MCI

talked late into the night ahead of a previous deadline threat, with negotiations breaking up over Qwest's refusal to pay $30 a share, as MCI requested.

The Ashburn, Va., long-distance telco has repeatedly rebuffed Qwest in favor of a financially less lucrative deal from

Verizon Communications

(VZ) - Get Report

, pointing to the latter's superior financial strength and competitive position.

Verizon last weekend added further intrigue to the back-and-forth by agreeing to buy out MCI's biggest shareholder, Carlos Slim Helu, at a substantial premium to the price it is paying other MCI shareholders. The decision led to renewed speculation that Verizon will have to raise its offer for a second time in order to sew up MCI, a prospect that has been

pressuring Verizon shares recently.

Qwest said its latest offer is worth 30% more than Verizon's current bid.

Late Thursday, Qwest rose 4 cents to $3.65, Verizon was flat at $34.26 and MCI rose 39 cents to $26.89.