Merkel says will prevent chlorine-washed chicken imports from U.S.

Germany's Angela Merkel stressed the importance of Europe striking a free trade deal with the United States on Saturday, but added she would not allow the import of chlorine-washed chicken - a sticking point in negotiations.

The United States and European Union are making headway on a free trade pact, but remain at odds over U.S. exports of beef and chicken that fail to meet tough EU safety standards.

The European Union is closed to U.S. beef from cattle raised with growth hormones and to chlorine-washed chicken, which consumers fear make the food unsafe.

The United States sees EU food safety rules as veiled protectionism for European farmers and insists any restrictions be based on scientific evidence.

"There will be no import of chlorine-washed chicken from the United States. I have prevented it for years and will continue to do so. There is no question about that," Merkel said during a European election rally speech in Worms in southern Germany before Sunday's vote.

But she also said a free trade deal would create jobs and it was important to reduce unfounded fears.

Merkel added said she hoped to see Europe develop firms able to compete with Google or Apple , partly to ensure the upholding of European data protection laws.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Alison Williams)