U.S. ending laptop ban on Middle Eastern airlines

FILE PHOTO: Baggage and a laptop are scanned using the Transport Security Administration's new Automated Screening Lane technology at Terminal 4 of JFK airport in New York City

FILE PHOTO: Baggage and a laptop are scanned using the Transport Security Administration's new Automated Screening Lane technology at Terminal 4 of JFK airport in New York City, U.S., May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Penney/File Photo

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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Transportation Security Administration said on Monday it had lifted a ban on passengers on Saudi Arabian Airlines carrying large electronics like laptops onboard U.S.-bound flights, the last carrier under the restrictions.

In March, U.S. officials imposed restrictions on passengers carrying laptops and other large electronic gear in cabins on nine airlines, most of which were Middle Eastern carriers, to address the potential threat of hidden explosives.

Last month, U.S. officials announced new security requirements for all airlines rather than an expansion of the laptop ban and have been dropping the restrictions from airlines as they boosted security.

A TSA spokesman said the U.S. government had lifted the restrictions at Saudia Arabian Airlines' main hub in Jeddah at King Abdulaziz International Airport on Monday. U.S. government officials will visit Riyadh's King Khalid International Airport "later this week to confirm compliance there as well," spokesman James Gregory said.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a revised directive to airlines around the world in response to requests that it clarify aviation security measures scheduled to begin taking effect later this week.

An airline official briefed on the matter said the directive gave airlines more flexibility and additional time to obtain explosive trace detection equipment. The official was not authorized to discuss sensitive security issues with the media and requested anonymity.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Tom Brown)

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