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Major Hurdle Passed to Bring Back Pro Baseball Team to Washington, DC After Three-decade Absence

The proposed move of Major League Baseball's Montreal Expos to Washington has passed its biggest hurdle. The District of Columbia Council approved a ballpark financing plan that could clear the way for the sport to return to the nation's capital for the first time since 1971.

Tuesday's new law appears to be acceptable to baseball and eliminates a provision that nearly sank the deal last week. The D.C. council had inserted a provision mandating private financing to cover at least half of the cost of the more than 435-million dollar project.

By a vote of 7-6, the council reversed itself and agreed Washington would use public funds to build the new stadium if private financing is not available.

For the Expos' move to Washington to become final, the law must be signed by Mayor Anthony Williams. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig also must declare that arrangements to use RFK Stadium next year are "satisfactory."

As part of the deal, baseball waived its right to compensatory damages for the first year if the 41-thousand-seat ballpark is finished late. Instead, the renamed Washington Nationals would not have to pay rent for RFK Stadium in 2008.