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UPDATE 1-U.S. SEC seeks permission to reply to Musk in Tesla case

(Adds background on dispute)

March 12 (Reuters) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday asked a judge for permission to respond to arguments by Tesla Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk that his recent tweet about the electric vehicle makers production volume did not violate his fraud settlement with the regulator and that he cannot be held in contempt.

If the judge grants permission, the SEC said it would respond by March 19.

The renewed public battle between Tesla's chief executive and the top U.S. securities regulator adds pressure on Musk, the public face of Tesla, who is struggling to make the company profitable after cutting the price of its Model 3 sedan to $35,000.

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe in Washington Editing by Susan Thomas and Leslie Adler)