WASHINGTON,BellSouth moved a significant step closer to offering long-distance service in all nine Southeastern states it covers when the US Justice Department recommended that BellSouth’s petition before the Federal Communications Commission be approved.

BellSouth is seeking FCC approval to offer long-distance service in Florida and Tennessee. It already has received the FCC’s blessing for long-distance services in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky and Alabama.

The FCC is expected to render its final decision on Dec. 19.