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South Africa may lift ban on British beef talks

BRITISH BEEF may soon return to South Africa, where there is currently a ban, after a "positive" discussion between President Thabo Mbeki and Tony Blair, who was at the retreat weekend of the Commonwealth Heads of Govern- ment Meeting in Durban.

Mr Blair's spokesman said the meeting was "positive".

"We have got a couple of teams of experts from South Africa and Britain who are working together to get [the ban] lifted here because this used to be a very big market for British beef," Mr Blair said in a television interview.

South Africa imported British beef worth almost pounds 50m in 1995, making it a far bigger market than most of the European Union countries at the centre of the Government's fight to get the ban lifted.

More than 80 countries still refuse to admit British beef, including South Africa, which was the second biggest market for British exporters before the mad cow epidemic.

Negotiations for a settlement of the beef exports dispute resume today when EU farm ministers meet in Brussels.