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    RUSSIA ON PROGRESS IN NORTH KOREA NUCLEAR TALKS

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    BEIJING, February 26 (RIA Novosti special correspondent) - The Russian delegation has noted progress in the second round of six-sided talks on the North Korean nuclear programs, currently under way in Beijing. Russia's chief delegate to the talks Alexander Losyukov said this on Thursday, tentatively summing up the second day of talks.

    According to him, the negotiations are held in a businesslike constructive atmosphere. The sides have agreed on the need to fix the possibility of North Korea giving up its nuclear programs. This position of Beijing was confirmed at the negotiations, though with a number of reservations, including guarantees that North Korea can exist in a calm atmosphere, with no threat to its sovereignty.

    The US delegates, in turn, quoted George Bush's earlier statement that the US has no intention of attacking North Korea, and thus, as Losyukov said, created a favorable atmosphere at the negotiations.

    At present, the final document of the second round of regional negotiations is being worked out to cement unanimous opinions of all sides, said Losyukov.

    The Russian delegation forwarded its draft of the document like the other sides, and the editing commission, as the chief delegate said, is seeking to work out a general document reflecting the positions of all negotiators.

    At the same time, differences in the approaches persist. In particular, it is still unclear what the elimination of North Korea's nuclear programs implies, noted Losyukov. According to the diplomat, the United States, South Korea and Japan want to see all the nuclear programs eliminated in North Korea - both in the military and civil spheres. Plus, it is yet unclear what programs North Korea has, stressed Losyukov.

    The diplomat noted that North Korea's programs are kept secret. North Korea intends to preserve the lack of clarity in belief that it consolidates its positions at the negotiations, he said. Losyukov refused to comment on this position.

    Pyongyang has not confirmed the fact that it has a program of enriched uranium that is easier to use for nuclear weapons than plutonium. Experts differ on this point, noted the diplomat.

    Russia and China, Losyukov continued, are more interested in ending North Korea's nuclear weapons program. As for the civil use of nuclear developments, this issue is out of international control because North Korea is not a party to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and is thereby not subordinate to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

    The United States' and its allies' tough position remains unchanged and does not meet North Korea's interests. According to Losyukov, there are doubts whether these differences can be settled at this round of talks, but the work can be continued by expert groups.

    Moreover, North Korea is threatening to give up its proposal to freeze its military nuclear program if the other negotiators do not meet it halfway. So far, Losyukov said, Pyongyang has not considered stopping nuclear developments for civil purposes.

    "According to the North Korean side, if there is no compromise, it will take steps to withdraw its proposal to freeze [the nuclear program], and there will be a serious setback towards our initial positions," stressed Losyukov.

    He said that Russia considered the North Korean proposal to be "crucial" and deems it possible to make reciprocal steps and provide assistance to North Korea.

    Some countries, including China, Russia and South Korea have indicated similar readiness, said Losyukov. However, he noted, the United States and Japan are not ready to be involved in such steps.

    The first round of six-sided negotiations involving the United States, North Korea, Russia, China, South Korea and Japan, took place in Beijing on August 27-29, 2003.

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