World briefs 10/23/06

Monday, October 23, 2006

Voters approve Panama Canal expansion

PANAMA CITY, Panama -- Voters overwhelmingly approved the largest modernization plan in the 92-year history of the Panama Canal on Sunday, backing a multi-billion dollar expansion that will allow the world's largest ships to squeeze through the shortcut between the seas. More than 78 percent of Panamanians voted in favor of the expansion with 94 percent of polling stations counted by the country's electoral tribunal. Only about 22 percent opposed the plan. Almost 57 percent of the country's more than 2.1 million voters did not turn out.

S. Korea, U.S. start new round of free trade talks

SEOGWIPO, South Korea -- South Korea and the U.S. began their fourth round of talks Monday to forge a free-trade agreement, negotiations that so far have achieved few breakthroughs ahead of a year-end deadline. Washington is seeking more access for U.S. pharmaceuticals, automobiles, farm products and other goods, while Seoul wants South Korean products manufactured in North Korea to be included in the agreement. The U.S. has said it cannot accept that. South Korean rice and beef farmers, in particular, have vehemently opposed a deal, saying cheaper U.S. products would jeopardize their livelihoods.

Iceland breaks ban on commercial whaling

REYKJAVIK, Iceland -- Iceland broke a global moratorium on commercial whaling, killing an endangered fin whale for the first time since the 1980s, local media reported Sunday. Iceland's RUV television showed footage of a large fin whale being towed by a whaling boat. It said the whale was harpooned in the north Atlantic about 200 miles west of Iceland. Iceland announced last week that it would resume commercial whaling, ignoring a worldwide moratorium that came into effect in 1986.

-- From wire reports

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