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S Korean president: US positive to resolve beef problem
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Protesters rally on a street leading to the US embassy and the presidential Blue House in central Seoul June 10, 2008. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said Sunday that the US government has shown a "positive" stance to restrain beef exports to South Korea.

"The South Korean government's stance is firm that US beef from cattle older than 30 months wont' be imported in any cases," the president was quoted as saying by his spokesman Lee Dong-kwan.

"I'm notified of a positive reply (from the US)," the president said after a meeting with Lee Hoi-chang, leader of the minor opposition Liberty Forward Party.

The South Korean president sent Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon to Washington last week and proposed that US exporters voluntarily restrain shipping beef from older than 30 months to South Korea.

"It would be the most rational measure to resolve the beef issue," the president was quoted by his spokesman.

According to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency, Kim failed to arrange a compromise over the beef issue with US Trade Representative Susan Schwab during their talks on Friday and Saturday. The two sides will resume negotiations on Monday.

"President Lee is likely to directly explain the outcome of additional negotiation (with the US) and seek people's understanding on it," the spokesman said.

Since South Korea signed beef import agreement with the US government, street rallies and candlelight vigils have been held in Seoul and other major cities almost everyday. Civic groups criticized that the deal puts the health of its people at risk. The popularity of President Lee, which was hovered above 50 percent in late February, has plunged to below 20 percent.

(Xinhua News Agency June 16, 2008)

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