The World Trade Organisation on Wednesday ordered the US to withdraw some of its support programmes for cotton farmers, accusing Washington of illegal export subsidies or domestic payments higher than permitted by WTO rules.

The WTO sided with legal actions brought by Brazil.

American officials said they would appeal parts of the WTO finding which gives them until 1 July 2005 to withdraw export subsidies provided to US upland cotton producers, users and exporters.

In its original complaint to the WTO, Brazil alleged that the United States had kept its place as the world's second-largest cotton grower and largest exporter because of $12.5 billion in government subsidies paid to American farmers between August 1999 and July 2003.

It said US cotton subsidies caused artificially low international prices and were hurting Brazilian farmers.

The United States, however, has insisted that its payments to farmers are within permitted levels.