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Tentative deal reached to avoid new US government shutdown

[WASHINGTON] US congressional negotiators said late on Monday they had reached a tentative deal on border security funding that would avert another partial government shutdown due to start on Saturday, but provided no details.

"We reached an agreement in principle" on funding border security programmes through Sept 30, Republican Senator Richard Shelby told reporters.

"Our staff are going to be working feverishly to put all the particulars together,” Mr Shelby said. He did not say whether President Donald Trump would get any money for a US-Mexico border wall.

Asked if Mr Trump had signed off on the pact, Mr Shelby said the negotiators talked periodically with "White House representatives." Although not saying Mr Trump had endorsed the outline, he added he thought and hoped the president could support the deal.

Mr Trump's December demand for US$5.7 billion to help construct the border wall triggered a 35-day partial government shutdown that ended last month without him getting wall funding.

Mr Trump agreed to reopen the government for three weeks to allow congressional negotiators time to find a compromise on government funding for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends on Sept 30, to avert another shutdown.

Democratic Representative Nita Lowey said on Monday night: "I hope by Wednesday we'll have a finished product." Ms Lowey said she had been in touch with House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who she said "has confidence I have made the right decision."

The stalled talks restarted in the US Capitol just hours before a scheduled rally in the Texas border city of El Paso, where Trump will promote his promised wall along the US-Mexico border, a proposal opposed by Democrats.

A counter-rally was greeting the Republican president, led by hometown Democrat Beto O'Rourke. The former congressman, who is considering seeking his party's 2020 presidential nomination, gained national prominence by nearly unseating Republican US Senator Ted Cruz in last November's elections.

In Washington, the small group of lawmakers leading the negotiations met for about two hours. They said they wanted to seal a plan by Monday night to allow time for the legislation to pass the House and Senate and get Mr Trump's signature by Friday, when funding is due to expire for the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and several other federal agencies.