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Russia deputy FM unable to confirm Macao bank transfers

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A Russian deputy foreign minister has not confirmed that funds from North Korea's $25 million account in a Macao bank are being transferred to Russia and Italy, after being unfrozen by Washington.
MOSCOW, May 3 (RIA Novosti) - A Russian deputy foreign minister has not confirmed that funds from North Korea's $25 million account in a Macao bank are being transferred to Russia and Italy, after being unfrozen by Washington.

Macao newspaper Aomen Ribao reported Thursday that Banco Delta Asia (BDA) has dispatched a $13 million tranche to several banks in Russia and Italy and that the transfer would take two to three days. However, the paper stopped short of naming any foreign banking organizations participating in the transaction, nor did it specify where the remaining $12 million would go.

"I do not know how reliable this information is," Alexander Losyukov said.

He said talks on the debt issue were continuing along banking channels and were not complete for fear of sanctions from the U.S. financial system.

"As far as I know, the American side is also interested in solving the problem. Everyone is interested, but no solution has been reached so far," Losyukov said.

Washington had the account blocked in September 2005 after accusing Pyongyang of money laundering and of counterfeiting U.S. dollars, but it backed down on its decision earlier this year in an attempt to break the deadlock in six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

In March 2007, the sanctions were lifted, but U.S. financial institutions were banned from further deals with the Macao-based bank. The U.S. has failed to provide any evidence of violations by North Korea or the bank.

The six-party talks, held intermittently since 2003, involve the two Koreas, China, Japan, the U.S. and Russia.

The BDA bank has neither confirmed nor denied Aomen Ribao's report to RIA Novosti.

The official spokesman for the North Korean bank Daedong, which holds $7 million of the total $25 million, also declined to comment in a telephone interview from London.

Under an agreement reached at the latest round of North Korean nuclear talks in February, Pyongyang must shut down and seal its Yongbyon reactor. However, it said it would do so only after its account with BDA was unfrozen.

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