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The Complexity of Multiterminal Cuts
 SIAM Journal on Computing
, 1994
"... In the Multiterminal Cut problem we are given an edgeweighted graph and a subset of the vertices called terminals, and asked for a minimum weight set of edges that separates each terminal from all the others. When the number k of terminals is two, this is simply the mincut, maxflow problem, and ..."
Abstract

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In the Multiterminal Cut problem we are given an edgeweighted graph and a subset of the vertices called terminals, and asked for a minimum weight set of edges that separates each terminal from all the others. When the number k of terminals is two, this is simply the mincut, maxflow problem, and can be solved in polynomial time. We show that the problem becomes NPhard as soon as k = 3, but can be solved in polynomial time for planar graphs for any fixed k. The planar problem is NPhard, however, if k is not fixed. We also describe a simple approximation algorithm for arbitrary graphs that is guaranteed to come within a factor of 2  2/k of the optimal cut weight.