In what may be the opening shot in a thrift merger war on New York's Long Island, Astoria Financial Corp. has approached Long Island Bancorp with a $1.3 billion merger feeler, local banking sources said.

Astoria Financial, based in Lake Success, N.Y., made an informal $55- per-share offer last week, and Melville-based Long Island Bancorp came back early this week with a counterproposal of about $60 per share, said executives familiar with the matter.

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