British trade body AIM has returned fire at defecting member, Ministry of Sound.

MoS had announced Feb. 23 it was quitting AIM in protest at pan-European trade body Impala's agreement with Warner Music Group, which was intended to smooth the path for the latter's proposed takeover of EMI. Since then, MoS has issued two "open letters" criticising the agreement, Impala and Impala member AIM.

In a statement issued today, the Association of Independent Music said it had issued "a full and complete rebuttal of every material criticism and accusation implied and insinuated" by MoS' open correspondence. AIM, on the other had, will not disclose its response to the media, noting that its "chooses not to conduct its business in this manner, nor will it reciprocate Ministry's method of campaigning."

The association will outline the response to its 900-odd members via its weekly newsletter, and through the members' section of its Web site.

"AIM's priority is and has always been to its members," it says in the statement, "be this during negotiations with new media businesses, in disputes with practitioners of copyright apartheid or as part of its regular member services."

AIM and its chairman/CEO Alison Wenham came into MoS' firing line in the two strongly-phrased "open letters," issued Feb. 27 and March 1 by the dance label's lawyers.

MoS had sharply called into question the terms of the confidential deal with WMG, and stated that Impala and AIM had made "a complete departure from the stated constitutional aims of both companies," among other points.

AIM's response comes on the eve of the U.K. independent music trade body's monthly board meeting, at which its members are expected to either ratify Impala's pact with WMG, or reject it.

Members of AIM studied the terms of the deal Feb. 28 at an "emergency" board meeting, but only after signing non-disclosure agreements.

EMI Group on Friday rejected WMG's latest offer of 260 pence per share, or roughly £2.1 billion ($4.1 billion), as "inadequate." At deadline, WMG had yet to return with a higher bid.