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Panama president warns Spain and Italy over canal row

Published on Jan 3, 2014 2:56 AM

PANAMA CITY (AFP) - Panama's president said Thursday he would visit Europe to force a consortium to back off a threat to suspend the Panama Canal's expansion work in an escalating row over US$1.6 billion (S$2 billion) in cost overruns.

The Spanish-led construction group has threatened to halt the massive project within three weeks if the Panama Canal Authority fails to pay for the extra costs.

President Ricardo Martinelli, however, said he expected the Grupo Unidos por el Canal (GUPC) consortium to finish the work "without any setbacks because these cost overruns are irresponsible."

"I will go to Spain and Italy to demand these governments take moral responsibility for what happened, because it is not possible that a company put huge extra charges on expansion work," he told reporters without disclosing a date for his trip.

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