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This letter proposes a tabu search heuristic for solving the routing and wavelength assignment (RWA) problem in optical WDM networks, considering the wavelength continuity constraint and a given set of connections to satisfy. For a number of available wavelengths on each link, this algorithm attempts to maximize the number of routed connections. The algorithm has been implemented and tested on NSFNET and EONNET networks and comparisons have been done with other algorithms in terms of the blocking rate. Generally, the results obtained with our tabu search heuristic are better than those provided by these algorithms.