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    ULAN BATOR, January 13, 2004 (RIA Novosti) -- Russia is positive about Pyongyang's readiness to "freeze" its nuclear programme. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said as much in his lecture at Mongolian State University on Tuesday. He is now in Mongolia for a two-day official visit.

    "It is certainly a step forward which allows expecting a constructive answer from the United States," Ivanov stressed. He noted that in this connection Moscow was satisfied with the positive response of US Secretary of State Colin Powell to Pyongyang's initiative.

    "This can become a good foundation for further negotiating process", the Russian Foreign Minister stressed. Russia, like other countries, is interested in the Korean peninsula's nuclear-free status, nuclear non-proliferation, security of all the regional countries, and peaceful co-operation in Southeast Asia, Ivanov noted.

    According to him, the problem of nuclear non-proliferation on the Korean peninsula must be peacefully negotiated. Such a decision would enable a system of states' mutual relations to be set up in this sub-region, which would guarantee stability and peaceful co-operation, including rapprochement of the two Koreas, the Russian Minister stated.

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