Reversing course, the struggling oil/gas, construction, and engineering-services conglomerate Kvaerner ASA accepted a rescue plan from its rival and largest shareholder, reports said. The plan, rejected earlier in the week, calls for a merger of Kvaerner's energy operations with those of Aker Maritime, which would double its stake in the Norwegian-British giant to almost 50 percent. Kvaerner's No. 2 shareholder, the Russian oil company Yukos, withdrew its own rescue proposal in favor of the Aker plan, the reports said. Kvaerner, which has been on the verge of bankruptcy, employs 35,000 people in 35 countries. The company's headquarters are in Lysaker, Norway.
A landmark trade agreement with the US, the last step in a decades-long process of normalizing relations, was ratified by Vietnam's National Assembly, 278 to 85. The pact completes a reconciliation process that began with the lifting of the US trade embargo in 1994. Under the deal, already ratified by Congress and signed by President Bush last month, Vietnamese goods and services can be shipped to the US under the same low tariffs enjoyed by most other nations. In return, Vietnam must open its state-controlled markets to foreign competition and international standards. But in a sign of continuing tensions, an official of the Hanoi government warned that any US interference in Vietnamese internal affairs could jeopardize the deal. The government there has complained about passage by the House of Representatives of legislation that would tie future US non-humanitarian aid to improvements in Vietnam's human rights record. The Senate has yet to approve the measure.