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Bangladesh hopes to solve debate over unsafe garment factories soon

DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh government officials said on Wednesday they hope to solve a crisis over their decision to not shut down six garment factories deemed unsafe by experts hired by western clothing brands.

Building inspectors from both sides disagreed over the safe thickness of concrete used in the factory buildings.

More than 150 clothing brands and retailers, including the world's top fashion chains Inditex and H&M, who source out of Bangladesh, have joined the Accord for Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.

Safety experts hired by this group have been inspecting garment factories after a building collapse in April 2013 sparked a global outcry about Bangladesh's $22 billion industry.

"We are trying to resolve this issue soon," Syed Ahmed, Inspector General of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments, told Reuters.

Joris Oldenziel, Accord's head of Public Affairs and Stakeholder Engagement Office in Amsterdam, told Reuters the group is disappointed the inspector general did not shut down the unsafe factories.

"The Accord is working with BUET (Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology) to resolve the issue around the strength of the concrete as soon as possible," he said.

The Accord relies on the opinion of engineers from the university to determine standards of structural safety.

The government department has shut down a number of factories partially on recommendations of inspectors from the Accord, BUET and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, dominated by North American retailers like Gap and Wal-Mart Stores.

(Reporting by Ruma Paul in Dhaka and Emma Thomasson in Berlin; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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