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Last Updated: Friday, 14 January, 2005, 11:49 GMT
N Korea ready for nuclear talks
Yongbyon nuclear plant
The US and allies wants the North's nuclear programme dismantled
North Korea is willing to restart stalled talks on its nuclear programme, the official KCNA news agency has said.

The announcement came hours after a visit by a high-level US Congressional delegation said serious negotiations could begin again within weeks.

Three rounds of inconclusive talks have been held since 2003, but Pyongyang did not attend a fourth round of talks scheduled for September last year.

It said it was waiting for the new US administration to take shape.

Analysts believe the North was holding off in the hope a Democratic president would be elected.

But KCNA said on Friday it would work to resolve outstanding issues with Washington.

"The DPRK [North Korean] side expressed its stand that the DPRK would not stand against the US but respect and treat it as a friend unless the latter slanders the former's system and interferes in its internal affairs," the agency said.

Progress

The statement came following a four-day visit to Pyongyang by US Congressmen, led by Curt Weldon.

Mr Weldon called his delegation's visit to North Korea an overwhelming success.

The Congressman held lengthy meetings with top officials, including the number two in the hierarchy, Kim Yong-nam, and the North's top negotiator, Kim Kye-gwan.

Mr Weldon said Kim Kye-gwan was now much more positive.

"He expressed optimism that as long as the US did not appear or act in a belligerent manner, they would in fact be prepared to move through serious negotiations to achieve the ultimate objective which is the total and complete elimination of the nuclear capability of [North Korea]," Mr Weldon said.

SIX PARTIES TO KOREA TALKS
China
Japan
North Korea
Russia
South Korea
US

Mr Weldon said the North Koreans were especially alert to the makeup of the new foreign policy team in the Bush administration and to any hostile comments from Washington.

The US last year offered economic help and security guarantees as an incentive to the North to give up its nuclear programme.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has recently warned North Korea is amassing a stockpile of fissile material for nuclear weapons.

Analysts say diplomacy has achieved little in the 27 months since the Bush administration first challenged North Korea over its nuclear programme.




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