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Belgian GP problems

A Belgian court ruled during the holiday period that it could not overrule the country's tobacco advertising ban. The law, which comes into effect in January 1999, resulted in Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone telling the Belgian GP organizers that it will lose its race this year unless the law is overturned. Ecclestone wants Belgium to postpone the ban for F1 until 2006, the deadline agreed recently by the European Union.

The legality of the ban was challenged in a regional court in the town of Verviers by several groups including the race organizers, local businesses and the regional government, which argued that the ban was in breach of European rules which allow for the free movement of goods and services within the EU. The judge however ruled that he could not suspend the ban.

The various organizations now intend to take the case to either the Cour d'Arbitrage - Belgium's highest court - or to the European Court of Justice. They argue that the ban will mean the loss of 2500 temporary jobs and $27 million a year.

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