updated 6/23/2004 8:56:41 PM ET 2004-06-24T00:56:41

The European Union and the United States struck a deal to make the EU's planned satellite navigation system compatible with the existing U.S. Global Positioning System, ending a trans-Atlantic row, officials said Wednesday.

EU Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio said she and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell will sign the agreement Saturday at the U.S.-EU summit at Dromoland Castle in Ireland.

The American GPS and the European system, dubbed Galileo, "are to become the de facto standard," de Palacio said.

"World users will, with a single receiver, be able to use either of the systems or both of the systems at the same time," she said, promising coverage that is "more robust, precise and continuous."

The Pentagon, which controls GPS, initially attacked Galileo as unnecessary and a potential security threat during wartime, saying Galileo signals could interfere with the next-generation GPS signals intended for use by the U.S. military.

The United States is spending $875 million to upgrade GPS with a stronger military-only signal that will be less vulnerable to enemy interference than the weaker civilian signal currently in use. The upgrade should be completed in the next decade.

The EU's deal with the United States addresses "mutual concerns related to protection of allied and U.S. national security capabilities," said John Sammis, economic counselor at the U.S. mission to the European Union.

Technical parameters will be set to ensure Galileo does not interfere with the U.S. military's GPS signals, Sammis said. One side will also be able to jam the other's signal in a small area, like a battlefield, without shutting down the entire system.

"Our concern is in a crisis situation to be able to deny a very limited area access to other signals," Sammis said. "That does not require turning the signal off."

The 3.6 billion euro ($4.3 billion) Galileo project is slated to go online in 2008. Its 27 satellites would more than double the coverage provided by GPS.

For Europe, the satellite deal also lays the groundwork for separate, pay services that can be used in applications requiring a higher degree of accuracy than GPS's civilian service now offers, such as data broadcasts.

In addition, European officials also envisage a special fee-paying restricted service for government agencies, such as intelligence services, peacekeepers and police forces.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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