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    MOSCOW, January 23rd, 2004 (RIA Novosti correspondent) - The upcoming talks due on January 26th between Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and US Secretary of State Colin Powell will feature a serious discussion of regional problems, above all the situation around Iran and North Korea's nuclear programmes. A source in the Russian foreign ministry said this to RIA Novosti on Friday.

    According to the source, Moscow and Washington's positions on these issues are drawing closer.

    As for Iran, the dialogue is now more balanced than before. "This was largely due to the decisions of the Iranians themselves, especially the signing of the additional protocol on IAEA guarantees," said the source.

    "This will also open the way for further co-operation between Russia and Iran in the civil nuclear development, including the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant," said the source. (Russian experts are building a nuclear plant in Bushehr on the basis of Russian technologies.) As for the situation in North Korea, the six-sided talks (involving Russia, the US, Japan, North and South Koreas) on the problem will be continued.

    The date for the second round of talks has not been fixed yet, but it is likely to be held in the next few months, said the source. Hopefully, the second round made it possible to harmonise the approaches to the settlement, the source emphasised.

    According to the source, Russia and the US agree on the ultimate goal of the settlement, i.e. nuclear-free status of the Korean peninsula. All the participants in the process have a clear idea of the need to give security guarantees to North Korea and encourage its economic development, the source said.

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