President Bush said Friday the United States will lift restrictions on imported Chilean fruit caused by the discovery of two poisoned grapes earlier in the week.

"The restrictions were being lifted today," Bush told reporters flying back to Washington from Colorado aboard Air Force One. He said the formal announcement would be made by Health Secretary Louis Sullivan later Friday.Bush defended the decision to bar the import of Chilean fruit, despite the protests from Chile. "I think when the health of the American people might be threatened, you've got to take prudent action," he said.

In Santiago, a Chilean naval officer denied a news report Friday that five Japanese ships were seized in retaliation for Japan's decision to ban fruit imports. He said the ships were detained for safety inspections.

On Thursday, Gen. Augusto Pinochet made a surprise visit to a fruit-packing house and ate several seedless white grapes to show they were safe. "They are very good," he said.

Sullivan was expected to announce what proportion of Chilean fruit would be inspected at U.S. ports and how much would be inspected by Chileans before it left that country.