US, EU in urgent discussions on pitch to expand laptop ban

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The EU is seeking urgent talks with Washington over a possible USA ban on carry-on computers on European flights to the United States, an EU source said on Friday.

The UK and the USA have banned laptops and tablet computers from the passenger compartment of flights from several Middle East and North African nations.

At the Delta area of the Cincinnati airport, a sign warned passengers that beginning Friday on flights returning to the US any electronic devices other than a cellphone would have to be placed in checked baggage. Some airline officials say they would need to hire more staff to impose additional restrictions, and they are anxious about how much advance notice they would have.

The controversial security measures have been criticized by Middle Eastern airlines and other aviation experts, who have questioned the rationale for the policy.

The United Kingdom has a similar ban in place for some in-bound flights, although its list of targeted countries differs from that of the United States.

But a US official disagreed with that assessment.

Jenny Burke, a Homeland Security spokeswoman, said no final decision has been made on expanding the restriction. "We are acting on specific intelligence".

The airline said profits were affected by a turbulent year, including heightened immigration concerns, terror attacks in several European cities, an attempted military coup in Turkey and uncertainty caused by Britain's vote to leave the European Union.

CBS News reported that the Ministry of internal security of the United States considering a ban, which could affect flights to the United States from the United Kingdom.

The airlines and group declined to comment.

The specifics of the restrictions under consideration are not yet clear.

On Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, to lay out the groundwork, according to two Capitol Hill sources.

He said it would slow passage through security checks as people try to negotiate a way of keeping their laptops.

US airlines have been pushing Homeland Security to find less disruptive alternatives, according to a source familiar with the discussions. Baggage in cargo usually goes through a more sophisticated screening process than carry-on bags.

Alarm bells are already ringing in Europe, however.

A European Commission spokeswoman said a telephone call between top EU officials and their U.S. peers had provided "a very constructive exchange of views".

The officials had asked that the US and Europe continue to cooperate on a "joint response to shared threats".

Kelly said last month the ban was likely to expand, given the sophisticated threats in aviation and intelligence findings that would-be attackers were trying to hide explosives in electronic devices.

US administration officials said in March that intelligence suggests terrorists are able to hide explosives in laptops.

But that argument hasn't won over the industry.

The head of the International Air Transport Association said recently that the electronics ban is not an acceptable or effective long-term solution to security threats, and said the commercial impact is severe.

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