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EU shies away from stricter timber import rulesTags: europe politics legislation import responsibility FLEGT politicians

BRUSSELS, Dec 15 (Reuters) - European Union ministers on Tuesday rejected a proposal to ban the import of illegal timber and timber products, approving a series of less stringent measures.

EU agriculture ministers, meeting in Brussels, rejected an outright ban as favoured by Britain, Spain and the Netherlands and agreed instead on measures including stricter rules on the certification of timber entering the EU.

However, Britain refused to vote for the watered-down measures, arguing they were not enough to stop illegal logging, blamed for 20 percent of carbon dioxide emissions.

"We shouldn't just be restricting illegal timber entering our market; we should be prohibiting it," said British Environment Under-Secretary Huw Irranca-Davies.

Britain argued that the measures approved ran counter to efforts being made by at the U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen to reach an agreement to fight climate change. ID:nLL527527]

The draft legislation approved on Tuesday will be sent to the European parliament for a second reading next year.

The Greenpeace environmental group said the proposal was a weak political agreement pandering to the interests of the timber lobby.

"While negotiations to limit the global climate impact of deforestation are under way in Copenhagen, European governments blocked proposals to improve draft legislation to prevent illegal wood and wood products from being placed on the EU market," Greenpeace, said in a statement.

Environmental groups say Europe buys 1.2 billion euros' ($1.75 billion) worth of illegally felled timber a year, about 20 percent of its imports. (Reporting by Bate Felix; editing by Andrew Dobbie)

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By Bate Felix, © (reuters) 15/12/2009
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