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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 December, 2003, 13:00 GMT
N Korea offers nuclear 'freeze'
Babies lie in a row at an orphanage in Wonsan City, Kangwon Province in North Korea
Impoverished North Korea wants fuel aid, among other demands
North Korea has said it will freeze its nuclear programme in exchange for a list of US concessions, as a step to a fuller resolution of the issue.

Pyongyang warned that unless its offer was accepted, it would not take part in another round of six-party talks.

The North said it wanted fuel aid and to no longer be listed as a sponsor of state terrorism, among other things.

The statement came as the US and its allies worked on a new proposal to get the North back to negotiating.

North Korea's Foreign Ministry spokesman was quoted by state news agency KCNA as saying that Pyongyang was offering this exchange as a "first-phase step" before it will sit down again at the negotiating table with the US, South Korea, Japan, Russia and China.

"Measures such as the US de-listing the DPRK (North Korea) as a 'terrorism sponsor', lift of the political, economic and military sanctions and blockade and energy aid, including the supply of heavy fuel oil and electricity by the US and neighbouring countries, should be taken in exchange for the DPRK's freeze of nuclear activities. This would lay a foundation for furthering the six-way talks," North Korea's Foreign Ministry spokesman was quoted as saying by state news agency KCNA.

"The resumption of the six-way talks in the future entirely depends on whether an agreement will be reached on the DPRK-proposed first-phase step or not," KCNA said.

The offer is part of what North Korea calls a "package deal" which envisages that Pyongyang would eventually scrap its nuclear programme in return for a long list of concessions from its neighbours and the US, including security guarantees, economic aid and diplomatic recognition.

Tough negotiations

The main sticking point has been how each side sequences its concessions.

The Bush administration began by refusing to negotiate over the crisis, saying North Korea must make the first move by giving up nuclear weapons for ever.

The US and its allies are reportedly wary of North Korea's insistence that its moves to resolve the nuclear dispute be matched by "simultaneous actions" by Washington.

Instead, a proposal drawn up by Washington and its allies last week is reported to talk about "co-ordinated steps", suggesting they are prepared to give negotiations a chance.

The text of the statement has not been released but some details of the plan's broad principles have emerged in unofficial reports from Washington, Seoul and Tokyo.

"Our concept was staged or step-by-step. We now call it co-ordinated steps," a senior South Korean official the official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The five nations would offer the North a security guarantee "as it begins a verifiable disassembly of its nuclear facilities" , but sets no timetable for economic aid for the country, according to the New York Times.

The proposal was expected to be passed on by China to Pyongyang for its consideration.

China and South Korea have been making desperate efforts to narrow the gap between the two sides. They are trying to arrange another round of formal talks in Beijing before the end of the year.

The last six-party talks, held in the Chinese capital in August, ended without success.

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