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Free Trade Agreement to Top Agenda During US-South Korea Summit

A free-trade agreement will top the agenda Friday and Saturday when President Bush and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak hold their first summit.

The summit will be held outside Washington at Camp David, where Mr. Lee will be the first South Korean leader to visit the presidential retreat.

Washington and Seoul signed a free trade agreement last June, but it is still awaiting legislative approval in both countries. White House officials have urged the U.S. Congress to look hard at the agreement, arguing that it will increase trade both ways.

Earlier this month, South Korean voters gave Mr. Lee's Grand National Party a parliamentary majority, helping to clear the way for passage of the agreement there.

U.S. lawmakers have previously said they would not approve the deal until a dispute over beef was resolved. But Friday, South Korea's Agricultural Ministry announced it had agreed to resume imports of U.S. beef.

Beef imports were halted again last October, after a shipment was found to contain animal parts banned due to concern over so-called "mad cow disease." Seoul first closed its door to U.S. beef imports in December 2003 after a single case of the disease was discovered in America.

South Korea resumed imports for several months last last year, but then re-imposed the ban after bones were found in several shipments. Seoul's Agriculture Ministry says it will now allow the import of cattle younger than 30 months.

Aside from trade, U.S. and South Korean officials are expected to discuss the six-party process to scrap North Korea's nuclear weapons. They will also discuss the U.S. military presence in South Korea and the process of transferring more control over security to the South Koreans.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.