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N. Korea welcomes new six-party talks in July - S. Korea

TOKYO, June 22 (RIA Novosti) - North Korea is prepared to resume six-party talks on its nuclear program in early July, a top South Korean negotiator at the talks said Friday.

"As far as I know, North Korea has also reacted positively to a proposal to hold a new round of six-party talks at the beginning of July, and to hold a meeting of foreign ministers at an appropriate time in the future," Yonhap agency quoted Chun Yung Woo as saying.

North Korea's previously-frozen funds at a Macao bank had until now been the main stumbling block at six-party nuclear talks, with negotiators from the United States, China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea trying to persuade the North to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. The latest round of talks in March stalled over the funds.

North Korea said it would close down its Yongbyon nuclear reactor once the transfer of its $25-million had been completed. The funds were frozen in Banco Delta Asia at the request of the United States on accusations of money laundering and counterfeiting.

A Russian Far Eastern bank agreed at the weekend to handle the funds' transfer, and the North Korean government then invited monitors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect the reactor's facilities. Pyongyang has not allowed the UN nuclear watchdog in the country since 2002.

A Russian government official said Friday the transfer of the funds to a Russian bank where Pyongyang holds an account was likely to be completed by the end of the day.

"The transaction is expected to be completed on Friday," an official said, dismissing Japanese media reports Tuesday that the funds had reached North Korea's accounts.

Participants in the talks have agreed that the new round should start only after IAEA experts present a report on their visit to the reclusive Communist state.

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