UPDATE 1-US judge halts damages enforcement against Chevron

SAN FRANCISCO, March 7 Mon Mar 7, 2011 6:46pm EST

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SAN FRANCISCO, March 7 (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Monday halted the enforcement of a damages award against Chevron Corp (CVX.N), siding with the U.S. oil company against Ecuadorean plaintiffs in a long-running dispute over Amazon rain forest pollution.

Chevron had asked U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York to extend his Feb. 8 temporary restraining order, which froze enforcement of any damages award, into a preliminary injunction.

Kaplan granted that request on Monday, following an Ecuadorean court's $8.6 billion judgment against the second-largest U.S. oil company last month.

The issue is part of a 17-year-long legal battle in which rain forest residents sought damages over accusations that Texaco, bought by Chevron in 2001, was responsible for oil dumped on their land in the 1970s and 1980s.

The plaintiffs did not have an immediate comment on Kaplan's ruling. (Reporting by Dan Levine and Braden Reddall; editing by Carol Bishopric)

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