updated 7/31/2007 2:57:24 PM ET 2007-07-31T18:57:24

Strict rules limiting the amount of liquids allowed on Europe-bound flights could be eased for passengers arriving on trans-Atlantic flights or elsewhere, and who have to transfer at airports within the European Union, officials said Tuesday.

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Rules limiting passengers to carrying liquids in containers no bigger than 100 milliliters (3.4 oz), packed in transparent bags, on board planes were put in place last November.

Exemptions could be allowed for international transit passengers, who under current rules have to give up duty-free purchases of wine, liquor or perfume that exceed the limit when they transfer flights at European airports, said EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot.

He said updated rules could do away with "unnecessary disruption for transit passengers ... arriving from airports outside the EU that have been found to apply equally strict aviation security standards," similar to those at EU airports.

Many passengers arriving and transferring at European airports are unaware they are not allowed to take liquids bought in countries outside the EU on board connecting flights when they change planes in Europe.

The rules have led to widespread confiscations, confusion and delays at airports.

Security measures limiting liquids allowed in carry-on baggage came in response to claims by British police that there was a plot last August to bring down U.S.-bound flights out of London's Heathrow airport using liquid explosives.

The list of liquids includes soup, syrups, creams, lotions, oils, perfumes, sprays, hair and shower gels, shaving and other foams, pressurized deodorants, toothpaste and mascara, and water and soft drinks.

EU spokesman Michele Cercone said the European Commission would send out expert teams to assess whether other non-EU airports meet security standards now applied at all airports across the 27-nation bloc as well as those in Norway, Iceland, Croatia and Switzerland.

The easing of the rules will also need to be approved by all participating countries. Cercone said possible relaxation of the rules could start at the end of this year on a country-by-country basis.

EU lawmakers at the European Parliament called on EU governments to scrap the measure restricting liquids on board planes unless they prove that security risks remain.

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