April 9, 2000

Panama: First 100 days after canal transfer pass without incident

                   PANAMA CITY, Panama (AP) -- In the 100 days since the United States handed
                   over the Panama Canal, Panama has operated the transoceanic waterway with
                   steady income and no problems, the canal's director said Sunday.

                   "We are demonstrating to the world that the Panamanians can efficiently run the
                   canal," said Alberto Aleman Zubieta.

                   Since the handover, 3,000 ships paying tolls totaling more than $130 million have
                   passed through the canal without incident, Aleman said.

                   "We are collecting an average of $1.5 million daily in tolls," an amount similar to
                   before the handover, he said.

                   About 9,000 employees, nearly all Panamanian, work at the canal, which was
                   inaugurated by the United States in 1914.

                   Aleman reiterated Sunday that one of the most important challenges facing the
                   canal in the next few years is guaranteeing efficient passage for ever-wider
                   modern ships.

                   Panamanian officials are reviewing a variety of possible canal expansion plans
                   and hope to select one in the next several months, Aleman said.