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Lee asks U.S. senators for Congressional support for FTA
SEOUL, April 19 (Yonhap) -- President Lee Myung-bak met with a group of U.S. senators Tuesday, asking them for help in getting Congress to ratify a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries, the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said.

   Lee said the trade deal is essential not only economically, but also in strengthening the alliance between the two sides during a lunch meeting with the five Republican senators -- Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), Mike Johanns (Nebraska), John Hoeven (North Dakota), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Jerry Moran (Kansas).

   Delegation leader McConnell expressed support for the trade pact and hoped that South Korea's efforts to win legislative approval of the agreement will also go smoothly, Cheong Wa Dae said in a statement.

   The agreement, which was first signed in 2007 and then supplemented last December, has been stuck in the parliaments of the two countries. During a visit to Seoul over the weekend, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said President Barack Obama is strongly committed to the deal.

   Lee also told the senators that Seoul-Washington relations have been upgrading to an alliance that is more solid than at any other time and asked Congress for continued support for moving the ties forward.

   McConnell said the Korea-U.S relations are an important alliance and promised to back efforts to strengthen them, the office said.

President Lee Myung-bak (L) shakes hands with U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) during a lunch meeting in Seoul on April 19. (Yonhap)