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updated 12/22/2010 7:34:20 PM ET 2010-12-23T00:34:20

Washington's pandas will stay at the National Zoo at least a little while longer.

Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) and Tian Tian (tee-YEN tee-YEN) are on a 10-year, $10 million loan from China that expires at the end of 2010. The Smithsonian's National Zoo continues to negotiate a new agreement for panda breeding and research.

Zoo spokeswoman Karin Korpowski-Gallo said Wednesday that China has granted a temporary extension for Mei Xiang and Tian Tian to remain until a new agreement is signed. Officials expect one in January.

Pandas have a long history in Washington. The first panda couple, Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing (sing-sing), arrived in 1972 and lived more than 20 years at the zoo after President Richard Nixon's historic visit to China.

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