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Monday, 29 April, 2002, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
North Korea 'wants Clinton' as mediator
Bill Clinton at a school in Harlem
Mr Clinton: More accustomed now to after-dinner speeches
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is reported to have invited former US President Bill Clinton to play a mediating role between Washington and Pyongyang.

A North Korean official told Reuters news agency on Monday: "The plan of the Dear Leader Kim Jong-il is that Mr Clinton should end the rhetoric."

President Bush
President Bush angered Pyongyang with his 'axis of evil' comments
There was no immediate comment on the report from either the US State Department or South Korea.

Since President George W Bush came to power, US-North Korean relations have cooled. Mr Bush put dialogue on hold when he first took office, and at the beginning of the year he branded North Korea as part of an "axis of evil".

Timing

The North Korean official, who was speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, would not specify whether Mr Kim made the invitation to Clinton before or after the "axis of evil" speech.

But he did say that "Mr Kim wants Clinton to play a similar role to Carter."

Former US President Jimmy Carter served as special envoy for Washington in 1994, and brokered talks which ultimately led to a pact under which Pyongyang has frozen its nuclear programme.

Warming relationship

Although relations between North Korea and the US were initially frosty after President Bush took office, there has since been an apparent thawing of relations.

A visit to Pyongyang earlier this month by South Korean presidential envoy Lim Dong-won achieved a breakthrough in reviving talks with the North.

During that meeting, the Stalinist North said it was prepared to reopen dialogue with the US.

It also paved the way for the reunions currently taking place between families separated by the Korean War, and talks this week between North Korea and Japan on Japanese nationals allegedly kidnapped by Pyongyang.

See also:

28 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Tears as Korean relatives are reunited
29 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
N Korea, Japan resume 'kidnap' talks
11 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
US envoy may visit North Korea
09 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Allies welcome N Korea accord
25 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: North Korea's strategic moves
02 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Profile: Kim Jong-il
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