ABC is willing to apologize to Philip Morris Cos. to settle a $10 billion libel suit over a broadcast that alleged the tobacco giant manipulated the amount of nicotine in cigarettes, The Washington Post reported.

The newspaper, citing anonymous sources, says in today's editions that network officials recently sent a proposed apology to Philip Morris in an attempt to settle the case quickly.A trial is scheduled for October in Richmond, Va.

The Post said journalists at ABC were furious that the network would consider apologizing for the "Day One" program. The program, broadcast last year, charged that tobacco companies, including Philip Morris, manipulate the levels of nicotine in cigarettes to addict smokers. Philip Morris has denied artificially increasing the level of nicotine above what occurs naturally in tobacco.

An ABC spokeswoman in New York denied the report but confirmed in an interview with the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch that the network and the tobacco company were talking. "The discussions are very preliminary," said Patricia J. Matson, vice president for corporate communications.