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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission advised European Union member states on Friday to defer lifting a ban on carrying liquids on board flights, saying it wanted to avoid potential disruption for passengers.
A ban on taking more than 100 ml of liquids on board flights, in place since 2006, was due to be partially lifted in the EU from Friday, but around half the bloc's 27 member states were not expected to make the change, citing security concerns.
As a result, and to avoid a situation in which some countries lifted the restrictions and others maintained them, causing confusion for millions of air travellers, the EU executive said it was better to defer lifting the ban.
"It is clear that a situation at European airports which leads to confusion for air passengers as to whether they can travel with 'duty-free liquids', in particular for connecting flights to the United States, should be avoided," Siim Kallas, the European commissioner for transport issues, said.
"Therefore, the restrictions on carrying 'duty-free' liquids purchased outside the EU through European airports should remain in place until passengers can travel with certainty."
The ban on liquids on board flights was imposed after British police uncovered a plot to blow up transatlantic airliners bound for North America using bombs made from liquid explosives. Several men were convicted for the plot.
The EU is aiming to lift the liquids ban entirely by April 2013 and wanted to begin with a partial lifting from Friday, but many member states remained concerned about the security risk, and are not satisfied with new liquids scanning equipment.
The partial lifting of the ban had been postponed once, a year ago, as a result of opposition from member states.
European airports association ACI Europe has said it supports the full lifting of the ban in principle, but says current liquids-scanning equipment is "unfit for purpose" and would be hugely disruptive for passengers.
The European airlines association AEA said the postponement had been necessary to avoid confusion at airports, and urged European governments to work more closely together, and with the United States, on a common approach.
"We need a harmonised approach, not a fragmented patchwork of national policies. EU.L member states must deliver on their commitments and implement pro-consumer decisions in a unified way," Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus, AEA secretary general, said in a statement.
"The US and Europe must communicate openly and as equals." (Additional reporting by Christopher Le Coq; Editing by Janet Lawrence)