LTV Corp., the nation's third-largest integrated steel maker, asked a U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Tuesday for permission to halt its integrated steel operations and get ready to sell them. 

"LTV no longer has sufficient liquidity or sources of other capital to operate the integrated steel facilities,'' the company said in a statement. 

An integrated steel maker takes the metal from ore to scrap. LTV has a work force of about 17,000 and has operations in 17 states, Canada and the United Kingdom. 

The proposal to halt operations would affect LTV's steel mills in Cleveland and Indiana Harbor in East Chicago. It would exclude the company's LTV Copperweld unit, which includes Copperweld Corp., Welded Tube Co. of America and the LTV Steel Tubular Division. 

LTV also said it wanted permission to reject labor agreements and take other actions necessary to idle the integrated steel operations and prepare them for sale. 

"After so many months of commitment and hard work by all parties, it is very disappointing to find our road to success blocked at this critical time,'' said LTV chairman William H. Bricker. 

The United Steelworkers of America chastized LTV for the move. 

"LTV management's decision to shut down its operations at a time when we and the Creditors Committee were still engaged in negotiations was reckless and irresponsible,'' said USWA President Leo W. Gerard. ``As they have since first announcing their bankruptcy, LTV's management has engaged in unnecessary confrontations that initially cost it contracts with major customers and ultimately threaten the livelihoods and health care benefits of tens of thousands of steelworkers and steelworker retirees throughout the country, and could devastate the communities they live and work in.'' 

LTV had filed for bankruptcy court protection from creditors Dec. 29. It blamed competition from cheap imports and a sluggish economy. 

"I continue to believe in this company and its employees,'' Bricker said. "We have excellent facilities, skilled and motivated employees and a reputation for high-quality products and excellent customer service. We also have developed an unprecedented level of commitment and support from our customers, suppliers and all levels of government for our efforts to save this company.'' 

Gov. Bob Taft said he was disappointed. 

"The loss of such a significant employer will be felt not only in Cleveland, but throughout northeastern Ohio,'' he said. 

"I encourage labor and management to make absolutely every effort in arriving at a compromise for LTV to remain in operation. The state of Ohio is committed to the viability of this company and stands by its commitments if a compromise is reached,'' Taft said. 

In August, the United Steelworkers of America approved a new contract with LTV that cut labor costs in an attempt to save the company. The agreement covered 9,000 LTV Steel employees, including 3,200 in northeast Ohio. 

Rick Shainoff, 49, of Cleveland, said he thought the top leaders of LTV should be jailed for their actions. 

"They've tried to run the company into the ground. They've tried to basically just run the company out of business,'' said Shainoff, treasurer of steelworkers Local 185, whose membership has dropped below 700 in recent years. 

Shainoff, a millwright who has worked at LTV for 32 years, said the company had overpaid for companies it bought and hurt relations with the steelworkers by opening a nonunion mill in Decatur, Ala. 

LTV, a mainstay of industrial Cleveland, also had been seeking a federally guaranteed $250 million loan. The state had committed $14 million toward the loan.