EU vegetable ban obeys WTO rules: Russia envoy

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Russia's envoy to the European Union denied Monday that Moscow's ban on EU vegetable imports amid a lethal E. coli outbreak breached World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

The priority of preventing loss of life "makes more inexplicable the attempts to link this to the norms of WTO," Vladimir Chizhov said, speaking to a news conference in Moscow from Brussels via a video link.

"In the norms of WTO it talks clearly and unambiguously about the possibility of imposing such bans in the case of threat to the care of public health, to the health and life of people."

Russia on June 2 introduced a blanket ban on vegetable imports from the EU to counter an outbreak that has killed 22. The EU responded by calling the ban disproportionate and scientifically unjustified.

The head of the EU delegation to Russia last week said the ban did not comply with the membership rules of the WTO, which Russia has long campaigned to join and hopes to finally enter this year.

Chizhov expressed the hope that the issue would be resolved before EU and Russia leaders meet later this week for a summit in the central Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod.

"I hope in the days left to the summit the necessary clarity will be brought in on this question," he said.

Chizhov denied the vegetable ban would be an issue in EU talks on Russia's WTO entry, which he said could wind up in weeks.

"As for the talks on WTO there are several items that have not been agreed, but they do not have anything to do with this illness," he said.

"I expect that in the next weeks -- not months, but weeks -- we will manage to finish talks on the remaining undecided questions, in a Russia-EU context, concerning the prospects of Russia entering the WTO," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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