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A fundamental assumption underlying most studies of optical burst switched (OBS) networks is that full wavelength conversion is available throughout the network. In practice, however, economic and technical considerations are likely to dictate a more limited and sparse deployment of wavelength converters in the optical network. Therefore, we expect wavelength assignment policies to be an important component of OBS networks. In this paper, we explain why wavelength selection schemes developed for wavelength routed (circuit-switched) networks are not appropriate for OBS. We then develop a suite of adaptive and nonadaptive policies for OBS switches. We also apply traffic engineering techniques to reduce wavelength contention through traffic isolation. Our performance study indicates that, in the absence of full conversion capabilities, intelligent choices in assigning wavelengths to bursts at the source can have a profound effect on the burst drop probability in an OBS network.