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EU Joins Battle Over British Beef

January 4, 2000

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ The European Union Commission sent legal papers to the European Court of Justice on Tuesday, joining a legal battle over France’s refusal to lift a ban on British beef imports.

``The request is that the court finds a member state has failed to respect an obligation under a treaty,″ said EU spokesman Jonathan Faull.

The EU Commission says France must open its borders to British beef in accordance with an August decision that declared such meat safe for export.

The case is expected to run anywhere between half a year and two years and will coincide with France’s presidency of the EU in the second half of the year.

The French government says it will keep the ban on British beef because it still harbors fears that such meat may be tainted by ``mad cow″ disease, which led to the initial 1996 EU ban on British beef exports.

The commission lifted the ban in August after EU scientists said strict new health checks showed British beef exports were as safe as meat in continental Europe.

The ban was introduced at the height of the mad cow scare, when a link was established between bovine spongiform encephalopathy, then ravaging British cattle, and a fatal human brain disease.

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