WASHINGTON -- The government is strongly urging airlines to tell passengers not to pack spare lithium batteries in checked luggage because they can ignite and fuel fires in baggage compartments.

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The safety alert issued yesterday by the Federal Aviation Administration recommends that airlines tell passengers when they are being ticketed and checked in not to put lithium rechargeable and nonrechargeable batteries in their bags, including those checked at gates.

Passengers can still carry small numbers of spare batteries in luggage they carry on the plane. The batteries are used to power consumer electronics. -- AP