LONDON, July 4 (RAPSI) - The UK government has notified Sir Robert Owen, the senior judge leading the inquest into the death of poisoned ex-FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko, that it is unlikely to decide any time soon whether to replace the ongoing inquest with a public inquiry, a representative of the coroner's office told RIA Novosti on Wednesday.

A public inquiry allows for holding some sessions behind closed doors and would therefore be able to consider secret evidence. For this reason, Litvinenko's widow, Marina, has urged the UK government to opt for a public inquiry.

The government was expected to announce its decision on July 3.

However, Owen's representative said the temporary coroner had been informed of the government's inability to take the decision by the date. He added that any other questions should be addressed to the press services of the Home Office, the Justice Ministry and the Foreign Office.

A Home Office representative earlier said the government was considering Owen's request for a public inquiry and would announce its decision as soon as it is made.

The Foreign Office declined to comment.

The Litvinenko inquest was halted when the coroner ruled against hearing important documents pertaining to the potential involvement of the Russian state in Litvinenko's death.

Sir Robert said he could not hold a full and fair investigation into the death and wrote to Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to ask for a public inquiry instead.

The High Court's next hearing is scheduled for July 12 and is expected to focus on the issue of public inquiry, provided the government agrees to hold it.

Litvinenko, 43, a former FSB officer who fled to the UK in 2000, was allegedly poisoned by radioactive Polonium-210 while drinking tea during a meeting with former security colleagues at the Millennium Hotel in Grosvenor Square in November 2006.

He died three weeks later in University College Hospital. FSB retiree Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun have been identified as the prime suspects, but both deny any involvement.