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Last Updated: Monday, 11 December 2006, 07:55 GMT
N Korea nuclear talks to resume
Six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear programme are to resume on 18 December, Chinese officials say.

A date for the resumption of talks has been long awaited after they stalled a year ago when North Korea walked out in protest at US financial sanctions.

Tensions have been heightened since North Korea carried out a nuclear test on 9 October.

The talks, which also involve Russia, South Korea and Japan, will be held in Beijing, China's foreign ministry said.

"The second stage of the fifth round of the six-party talks will start from 18 December in Beijing after consultations among the parties," the foreign ministry said on its website.

The new date follows weeks of behind-the-scenes diplomacy led by China following Pyongyang's decision to return to the negotiating table after its October test.

The talks are expected to discuss ways of implementing a joint statement agreed in September 2005, in which North Korea agreed to give up its nuclear ambitions in return for security guarantees, aid and other benefits.

The agreement stalled in November, when North Korea walked out of the talks in protest at US sanctions targeting its alleged counterfeiting and money laundering operations.

Pyongyang drew international condemnation and UN sanctions after testing a nuclear weapon in October. This followed missiles tests in July.

South Korea welcomed the new date for talks, and said it expects "substantial progress" to be made on resolving the North's nuclear issue.

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