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Sweden, Denmark bridge their gap

The heirs to the Swedish and Danish thrones exchanged kisses Saturday in the center of a new bridge that physically links Sweden to Denmark for the first time.

The 10-mile, $2.6-billion project, which also includes a tunnel, ties Copenhagen to Sweden's third-largest city, Malmoe. It will open to traffic next July.

The bridge's last piece was put in place early Saturday by a giant floating crane.

After approaching from each side, Sweden's Crown Princess Victoria and Denmark's Crown Prince Frederik embraced 224 feet over the waterway that leads into the Baltic Sea while hundreds of boats circled underneath and blew their horns.

Construction of the link began in 1995. It will allow trucks, trains and cars to avoid the time-consuming and costly process of transferring to ferries.

Officials hope that will spur trade between northern and southern Europe. The link is most likely to benefit the areas around Malmoe, a city of 250,000, and Copenhagen, with 1.2-million inhabitants.

The two cities and their hinterlands are "destined to become an economic and cultural powerhouse on a par with cities such as Berlin and Hamburg," Danish Trade Minister Pia Gjellerup said at Saturday's ceremony.

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