WASHINGTON (AP) — Port operators along the East Coast have reached a tentative deal on a new contract with the union for longshoremen, averting a possible strike that would have crippled operations at 15 ports, according to a federal mediator.

The deal was announced late Friday in a statement from George H. Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

Mr. Cohen, who has been leading the talks since last year, said the agreement was subject to ratification by both parties and to additional local union negotiations. But he said the local talks would continue without the threat of interrupting port operations. Mr. Cohen declined to offer any details on the deal.        

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