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Mr. Lee is trying to reach a compromise with Washington, after more than 3,500 South Koreans staged a demonstration on Wednesday and the opposition party pledged to boycott the opening of the National Assembly to protest the deal.

Mr. Vershbow told reporters in Seoul earlier this week that the Bush administration sees no reason to renegotiate the agreement that will allow U.S. exporters to sell Korea beef from cattle that are at least 30 months old. He said that science has found there is no greater risk of mad cow disease from older cattle.

“The deal is based on international science, and there is no scientific justification to postpone the implementation,” he said.

Sohn Hak-kyu, chairman of the opposition United Democratic Party, accused Mr. Vershbow of insulting the Korean people with an “arrogant and impudent” statement. The liberal newspaper, Hankyoreh, accused Mr. Vershbow of “rude behavior.”

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