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Russia enforces poultry ban on 19 U.S. companies

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Russia's ban on poultry imports from 19 U.S. producers came into force on Monday, sparking alarm in Washington amid rising tensions over the recent Georgia conflict.
MOSCOW, September 1 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's ban on poultry imports from 19 U.S. producers came into force on Monday, sparking alarm in Washington amid rising tensions over the recent Georgia conflict.

Agricultural regulator Rosselkhoznadzor had announced the ban on Friday, saying the companies' products failed to meet sanitary standards.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had earlier mentioned the ban, but insisted it was nothing to do with ongoing political tensions with the U.S. government, which has strongly criticized Russia for its military operation in Georgia and recognition of Georgian rebel regions.

Vice presidential candidate Joseph Biden, who heads the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, said he was alarmed by Russia's ban, and urged the U.S. government to take response measures.

Putin's statement on the ban last Thursday came after the U.S. said it might scrap a civil nuclear deal with Russia as punishment for its military operation, which followed Georgia's August 8 attack on breakaway South Ossetia, and for its recognition of the province, along with breakaway Abkhazia.

Rosselkhoznadzor said the decision was a result of a joint Russian-U.S. inspection of poultry firms carried out in late July and early August.

"The inspection also showed that many companies had not taken measures to remove flaws revealed during previous checks," the regulator said in a news release.

Around 120 companies will remain on the list of suppliers to Russia, but the regulator said 29 other firms face the same ban unless they raise their standards.

The United States is Russia's largest poultry supplier. The country has supplied 870,000 metric tons of the 1.2-million-metric-ton poultry quota set by Russia for 2008.

Russia has imposed several temporary bans on pork and poultry from various U.S. producers in recent years. Up to late 2006, the issue was a major stumbling block in bilateral negotiations on Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization.

The U.S. has strongly criticized Russia's recent actions in Georgia, in the three weeks since Tbilisi tried to seize control of South Ossetia and Russia launched a counterattack.

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