World and Nation

Shorts (left)

U.S. and South Korea Remain Apart on Trade Negotiations

Trade negotiations between the United States and South Korea have failed to narrow gaps on issues like agriculture, automobiles and textiles, leaving them for next week, negotiators said Thursday.

"There have been some gains made in the four days of talks," Min Dong-seok, the assistant agriculture minister, said after his meeting with Ambassador Richard Crowder, the chief American agricultural negotiator. "Those that have not been resolved will be referred to a ministerial-level meeting next week."

The lack of agreement delayed a free-trade deal that the Bush administration has called the most ambitious since the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1994 and a possible model for other deals it seeks in Asia.

A deal with South Korea, experts say, would not only add billions of dollars a year to bilateral trade but also help two allies strengthen a recently strained security relationship.

Democrats See Growing Support For Bill Setting Iraq Deadline

For days, Democratic leaders have scrambled to shore up enough support to pass their Iraq legislation. They delayed the final vote by a day, fearful that a few undecided lawmakers — on the left and right — could jeopardize their plan to set a timeline to bring troops home from Iraq by Sept. 1, 2008.

But when the House opened its war debate on Thursday, the loudest opposition was beginning to fade, particularly from liberals who had argued that the proposal would not end the war fast enough. Leaders of the Out of Iraq Caucus gave their blessing to a handful of Democrats to change their votes, saying it was not in their interest to impede the measure, which is scheduled to come to a vote on Friday.

On both sides of the Capitol on Thursday, Democrats considered emergency war spending proposals, which they are trying to use as vehicles to change course in the four-year-old war. The Senate Appropriations Committee adopted a nonbinding goal of removing troops from Iraq by March 31, 2008, setting the stage for a vote by the full Senate as soon as next week.

Chief Says FCC is Against Cell Phone Use on Airliners

The Federal Communications Commission will give up on the idea of allowing cell phone use on airplanes, the chairman said on Thursday, because it is not clear whether the network on the ground can handle the calls.

While the chairman, Kevin J. Martin, cited a technical reason, thousands of air passengers have written to the FCC, urging rejection of the proposal because of the potential for irritating passengers in airliner cabins. The Federal Aviation Administration had been laying the groundwork to allow in-flight cell phone use.

Both agencies would have had to approve before the phones could be legally used on board.

The problem cited by Martin did not have to do with flight safety or the mood in the cabin, but a problem raised by the cell phone industry. The system is designed for phones to communicate with a single cell tower at a time. But a cell phone that is several miles in the air can contact many towers at once, tying up circuits in all of them, the industry argued.