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Page last updated at 08:12 GMT, Sunday, 13 July 2008 09:12 UK

N Korea rejects Seoul talks offer

 televised in South Korea on Friday
President Lee has faced protests and growing criticism at home

North Korea has rejected an offer by the South Korean president to resume talks that he suspended in February.

The North's state newspaper said President Lee Myung-bak was trying to avoid his personal responsibility for the countries' strained relations.

Mr Lee was criticised in the South for offering to restart the talks so soon after a South Korean tourist was shot dead by a North Korean soldier.

Pyonyang has rejected calls from Seoul to be allowed to investigate the death.

It says the 53-year-old woman had strayed into a restricted military zone and had tried to run away when repeatedly ordered to stop by the soldier.

Mr Lee's offer to revive direct talks with the North posed a major policy shift for Seoul.

He told parliament on Friday that he was willing to carry out previous bilateral summit accords and provide the impoverished North with food aid.

'Deceitful'

Mr Lee is suffering from falling popularity at home since taking office in February, and has seen weeks of street protests in Seoul over US beef imports.

He drew accusations from the North that he was a "traitor" and US "sycophant" when he turned away from the Sunshine Policy of engagement of past presidents.

The North called his latest appeal for resumed talks "deceitful".

"(Lee) said something like that the South is 'willing to engage in serious consultations' on how to implement the inter-Korean agreements made so far, but why do we need any further consultation when we have already agreed on all the execution processes?" it asked in the Rodong Sinmun state newspaper.

The South has been involved in the recent six-nation talks held in China which, on Saturday, resulted in an agreement to help verify North Korea's nuclear disarmament.

Correspondents say Mr Lee's previous hardline stance towards the communist North had left Seoul slightly sidelined.



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