US, EU near deal on air data

The U.S. and the E.U. are close to a deal for sharing airline passenger information, the Financial Times reported on its Web site. U.S. and E.U. officials confirmed that this new anti-terrorism agreement will almost certainly be signed Thursday, two days before the current accord expires.

“This is too big to fail,” a U.S. official was quoted as saying. “We have made a lot of progress over the last few days.”

The U.S. had wanted to revise the current arrangement, which had been ruled illegal by the E.U. high court and expires on Sept 30. But because of the swiftly upcoming deadline, it has accepted the E.U.‘s offer of a similar deal under a different legal basis that would satisfy the E.U.‘s judges, the FT reported. In return, the E.U. has vowed to quickly begin negotiations on a new framework that may incorporate of the U.S.‘s additional demands, and aim to implement them well before Nov. 2007, when the new deal expires.

The agreement being discussed still allows airlines to forward more than 30 pieces of information - including dietary requirements, credit card details and family links - to U.S. authorities. But the talks faltered on U.S. demands to make it easier for its intelligence agencies to access the information, the FT reported.