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A pair of giant pandas from China will spend the next 12 years at the San Diego Zoo under an agreement reached after four years of bureaucratic and political delays.

The Chinese government announced the loan Thursday, the same day the U.S. House of Representatives rejected a measure that would have denied normal trade status for China, home to the world's remaining 1,000 wild pandas.The rare black-and-white pandas will be only the second and third held in captivity in the United States. The other panda in America lives at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

Final details still have to be worked out, and it's still not clear when Shi Shi, a 14-year-old male, and Bai Yun, a 4-year-old female, will arrive at the zoo, said Douglas Myers, executive director of the San Diego Zoological Society.

"There are still a lot of things that have to happen to make sure this is a successful shipment," he said. So far, the zoo has spent about $2.5 million on its panda courtship with China.

Under the deal, the zoo will donate $1 million each year to habitat preservation projects in China. The agreement also says any panda born in San Diego will belong to China.

The zoo has been negotiating for the pandas since 1992 and completed a $1 million enclosure for the animals a year later. Chinese music is still piped into the exhibit, although it's empty except for a few stray birds.

U.S. wildlife officials rejected the zoo's application to house the bears in 1993, but their position changed 18 months later when the zoo promised to focus on research more than the public exhibit.

But Chinese authorities appeared to be dragging their feet until this week. No reason was given for the delay, although Washington and Beijing fired barbs at each other over trade, human rights and other issues.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who held discussions with Chinese officials on behalf of the zoo last year, was contacted Thursday morning by Chinese Ambassador Li Daoyu after approval was granted by the State Council.

"China's approval of the panda loan is a strong gesture by China that it is committed to building healthy relations between our two countries," Feinstein said.