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The Latest on plans to impose a ban on diesel vehicles in German cities (all times local):

3 p.m.

The German government is hoping to avoid bans on driving diesel cars in cities despite a court ruling that paves the way for such measures to improve air quality.

Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks says she hopes Tuesday's ruling will spur a shift toward cleaner, greener forms of transportation in Germany.

Hendricks told reporters that the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig had "confirmed the population's right to clean air in cities."

She also blamed automakers for causing the problem by selling diesel cars that emit more harmful substances than advertised.

Hendricks said car manufacturers have a responsibility to pay for the upgrade of diesel cars to reduce emissions.

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2:35 p.m.

Berlin's Chamber of Commerce says a ban on diesel cars in the city's downtown could cost firms in the German capital 240 million euros ($295 million) alone to replace their fleets.

Agency head Jan Eder said Tuesday's decision should increase pressure on Berlin authorities to look for other ways to improve air quality, such as incentives to buy electric cars, cleaner public buses, encouraging more cycling and "intelligent" traffic light programming.

Otherwise he says Berlin companies would be forced to invest in new fleets at great cost.

Eder says "about half of the companies would then have to restrict or even give up their businesses."

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2:30 p.m.

The environmental group that sued to get German cities to ban dirty diesel cars is celebrating a court decision making such bans possible.

The head of Environmental Action Germany said Tuesday it was "a great day for clean air in Germany."

Juergen Resch noted that the Federal Administrative Court concluded European legislation and health protection were more important than national regulations.

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2:10 p.m.

Chancellor Angela Merkel says she hopes that measures to reduce air pollution in German cities will have an effect soon.

Merkel was reacting to a court ruling Tuesday that concluded cities can ban heavily polluting diesel cars to reduce levels of nitrogen oxides, or NOx, that are harmful to human health.

Dozens of German cities exceed legal limits on NOx and campaigners have sued to force authorities to take action.

Merkel said the government would examine the verdict and meet with cities to discuss which measures to take.

But she said that many cities only just exceed the legal threshold and "we may be able to meet the limits very soon."

Merkel insisted that the ruling wouldn't affect all diesel car owners in the country.

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1:10 p.m.

One of Germany's oldest and largest environmental organizations is applauding a court's ruling that cities can ban diesel cars, saying "the pressure on politicians and manufacturers has increased significantly" to take measures to reduce pollution.

The Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union said, with Tuesday's decision, "affected cities must now be made the trailblazers of a transportation U-turn as soon as possible to strike a balance between mobility needs and environmental and health protection."

The agency, known in Germany as NABU, says the verdict also illustrates the failure of the federal government to bring air quality in line with EU regulations and avert driving bans.

It's urging the incoming government to focus on reducing nitrogen oxide emissions in cities through stricter controls, with affected vehicles retrofitted with filters at manufacturers' expense.

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1 p.m.

Shares in German auto companies are moderately down after a court ruled that cities with excessive pollution levels could legally impose driving bans on diesel cars.

Daimler AG was off 0.7 percent at 69.77 euros and BMW AG was down 0.7 at 87.14 euros.

Volkswagen AG fell 1.8 percent to 162.54 euros.

Auto shares eased lower amid generally falling shares.

The overall German stock market was down 0.54 percent in early afternoon trading in Europe.

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12:20 p.m.

German media are reporting that a court has ruled cities can impose driving bans on diesel cars to combat air pollution.

The ruling Tuesday could see millions of drivers forced to leave their cars at home on days when harmful emissions are particularly high.

The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig rejected an appeal brought by two German states against lower court decisions that suggested driving bans for particularly dirty diesel cars would be effective and should be considered.

Environmental campaigners had sued dozens of German cities, arguing that they have a duty to cut excessive air pollution to protect people's health.

Diesel cars emit nitrogen oxides, or NOx, that causes respiratory illnesses and thousands of premature deaths annually.

Officials say it would be difficult to enforce diesel bans.

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9 a.m.

A German court is expected to rule Tuesday on whether cities can ban diesel cars to lower air pollution, a measure that could affect millions of drivers in the nation that invented the automobile.

The Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig plans to announce its verdict at midday in an appeal brought by two German states against lower court rulings that suggested driving bans for particularly dirty diesel cars would be effective and should be considered.

Environmental campaigners had sued dozens of German cities, arguing that they have a duty to cut excessive air pollution to protect people's health.

Diesel cars emit nitrogen oxides, or NOx, that causes respiratory illnesses and thousands of premature deaths annually.

Officials say it would be difficult to enforce driving bans only on certain cars.

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