LONDON (AP) _ Britain intends to lift a ban on the sale of beef on the bone, the government announced Tuesday, removing the safety measure it imposed during the ``mad cow'' crisis.

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown told Parliament that an accelerated procedure should allow rib roasts and T-bones to go on sale before Christmas.

Brown's announcement followed a recommendation hours earlier by the chief medical officers of England, Scotland and Wales.

The government was sharply criticized for imposing the ban in December 1997 rather than allowing consumers to decide for themselves whether to eat rib roasts.

The decision was based on scientific advice that there was a slight chance bone marrow could transmit to humans a form of the lethal brain disease bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly called ``mad cow disease.''

A new strain of the brain-wasting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease _ the human equivalent _ was linked to the bovine disease in 1996.

The outbreak led to a three-year European Union embargo on the export of British beef. That ban was lifted Aug. 1 after EU agriculture ministers agreed Britain had implemented strict regulations to avoid a recurrence of the disease.

Despite the EU decision, France has refused to accept imports of British beef, but diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue are reportedly making progress.

Prime Minister Tony Blair planned to meet with industry leaders and farmers' representatives Wednesday to work out a marketing strategy for British meat exports.