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How far will US beef issue ail S. Korean president?
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Worst political crisis since taking office

The beef import issue has confounded the president, who took office in February after a landslide victory last December on a blueprint to boost the country's economic growth.

To sooth growing public criticism and put an end to the worst political crisis he has faced since taking office, Lee has pledged to take measures for an administrative reform, including a reshuffle of the Cabinet and senior presidential secretaries, Yonhap news agency reported.

Lee is also planning to meet with senior national leaders for their advice on how to overcome the political crisis, Yonhap quoted a presidential spokesperson as saying last Thursday.

But instead of a renegotiation, the president declared last Tuesday that his government will not allow the import of US beef from cattle aged 30 months or older, which is considered to pose a greater risk of transmitting mad cow disease.

Experts say the age limit is important because younger cows are believed less likely to contract bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), more commonly called the mad cow disease.

Seeking support from Washington

South Korea on Monday sent two separate delegations to Washington to discuss the disturbing beef imports deal in an effort to calm domestic political protests.

A delegation of the ruling Grand National Party (GNP), including four legislators and one party official, will urge Washington to promise in writing that it will not export beef from cattle aged 30 months or older, a GNP spokesman said.

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