WASHINGTON - Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg yesterday delayed Chrys-ler's sale of most of its assets to a group led by Italy's Fiat, but didn't say how long the deal would remain on hold.

Ginsburg said the sale had been "stayed pending further order," indicating that the delay may only be temporary.

Chrysler LLC has said the sale must close by Monday or Fiat Group SpA has the option to walk away, leaving the Auburn Hills, Mich., automaker with little option but to liquidate.

A federal appeals court in New York approved the sale Friday but gave opponents until 4 p.m. yesterday to try to get the Supreme Court to intervene. Ginsburg issued her order right before the deadline.

Ginsburg could decide on her own whether to end the delay, or she could ask the full court to decide. It is unclear when she or the court will act.

Meanwhile, a senior Obama administration official said that if the sale of Chrysler LLC's assets to Fiat Group SpA is cleared by the Supreme Court, the Italian automaker will shake up Chrysler management and change the company's culture.

The management changes will go deeper than the previously announced departure of chief executive Bob Nardelli and Vice Chairman Tom LaSorda, the official said. *