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EU, US to discuss possible airline laptop ban

AFP , Friday 12 May 2017
laptop "Reuters"
An illustration picture shows a laptop on the screen of an X-ray security scanner (Photo:Reuters)
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Top EU and US officials will hold talks on Friday over a possible US ban on carry-on computers on European flights to the United States, an EU spokeswoman said.

The US Department of Homeland Security sparked deep concern in Europe on Tuesday when it said was close to a decision on extending to Europeans an existing ban imposed on eight mostly Muslim countries.

The policy could have a huge affect on the coming high travel season in Europe, with more than 3,250 flights a week scheduled to leave EU airports for the US this summer, according to industry data.

The ban would create a logistical nightmare for airports, airlines and law enforcement, with laptop computers now a ubiquitous carry-on item for millions of air travellers.

"There is a scheduled phone call later today with US Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and a number of European ministers," Commission spokeswoman Anna-Kaisa Itkonen told a news briefing in Brussels.

"Our interest is to stay informed so that we have a possibility to share... information with our member states," Itkonen said, adding that two EU commissioners would also take part.

If confirmed, the ban would heighten tensions between the EU and US, which have been at pains to see eye to eye under President Donald Trump.

The EU's Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos asked Washington to work with the Europeans on the issue in a letter to US officials earlier this week.

In March, Washington banned passengers on direct flights to the United States from eight countries from carrying on board laptop computers, tablets and other electronic devices larger than cellphones.

The affected countries are in North Africa and the Middle East and include Turkey.

Britain followed with a similar ban applying to incoming flights from six Middle East and North African countries.

The move, which forces passengers to put their devices into checked baggage, came as counter-terror officials developed concerns that jihadist groups were devising bombs disguised as batteries in consumer electronics.

A bomb that blew a hole in the fuselage of a Somali airliner in February 2016, killing one person, is believed to have been built into a laptop computer carried into the passenger cabin.

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