WASHINGTON (AP) _ The United States will cut the number of troops stationed in Panama by about half by 1995, the Pentagon said today.

That means the 10,000 men and women stationed there will be reduced to about 6,000, Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams said.

The step is being taken in conjunction with planned hand-over of the Panama Canal to the Republic of Panama, which is scheduled to take place on Dec. 31, 1999.

Under the 1977 Panama Canal treaty, all U.S. troops are to be withdrawn from Panama and all U.S. military facilities are to be transferred to the government of Panama by that date.

The vast majority of the troops drawn from Panama will be U.S. Army personnel, said one senior military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps units are stationed in Panama, but the cuts are not expected to affect them for a year or so, the official said.

There are some 10 major military installations and 4,800 buildings on about 85,000 acres of land that are expected to be handed over, said the official.

No decisions have been made on exactly which units will be withdrawn, nor where they might be sent.

The cut in troops will also mean a major shift for the family members that accompany them.

About 3,000 such dependents are expected to leave the country during the first major phase of the troop cut, the official said.

There were 22,750 U.S. troops deployed to Panama for Operation Just Cause, which lasted from Dec. 20, 1989, to Jan. 31, 1990.

President Bush directed the troop deployment as a means of toppling Gen. Manuel Noriega.

Noriega is serving a 40-year sentence in federal prison for a drug trafficking conviction last year.