February 11, 1999
U.S. troops present plan for withdrawal from Panama

                  FORT KOBBE, Panama (AP) -- The U.S. military presented its plan
                  Thursday to withdraw from the Panama Canal area by Dec. 31, as required
                  by 1979 treaties.

                  The treaties, signed by then presidents Jimmy Carter and Omar Torrijos,
                  require the United States to hand over control of the waterway and
                  surrounding territory by the end of the year.

                  "We are in a hurry to transfer all the facilities before Dec. 31," said Col.
                  David Hunt. "We have an intensive schedule."

                  The United States will hand over installations on Galeta Island on March 1,
                  the year's first transfer. Rodman naval base will be transferred on April 30,
                  and Fort Sherman and two shooting ranges will be handed over to Panama
                  in June.

                  Other facilities will be turned over in August and November.

                  Of the more than 10,000 American soldiers stationed in Panama in the early
                  1990s, only 4,000 remain, Hunt said. Another 3,000 are expected to leave
                  by October.

                  The loss of the U.S. troops based in the zone will cost Panama's economy
                  up to $300 million a year, but officials say they will more than make up for
                  that with an expected boom in tourism and new businesses. Some critics are
                  less sure.

                  The canal generated toll income of $545.7 million in the 1998 fiscal year. An
                  average of 33 to 35 ships pass through the 50-mile-long waterway each
                  day, paying tolls based on their weight.

                    Copyright 1999 The Associated Press.