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    WORKING GROUP ON NORTH KOREAN NUCLEAR PROBLEM TO INCLUDE 7-9 RUSSIAN REPRESENTATIVES

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    BEIJING, February 28, 2004. (RIA Novosti special correspondent). The working group on the North Korean nuclear problem will include seven to ten Russian representatives, said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov, who heads the Russian delegation at the six-sided talks in Beijing.

    The Russian part of the group will be headed by a deputy director of the relevant department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Losyukov told RIA Novosti.

    The group will comprise diplomatic and technical experts and nuclear specialists, for instance, from the Atomic Energy Ministry, he noted.

    According to Losyukov, the practical work of the group will be coordinated via diplomatic channels.

    The agreement to form the working group for further dialogue was achieved at the second round of the six-sided talks on the North Korean nuclear problem.

    It was one of the main results of the second round, Losyukov said. In his words, North Korea confirmed its readiness to freeze war programs in the nuclear sphere as the first step towards the nuclear-free status of the Korean Peninsula.

    "The USA took a firm position and North Korea expected a more favorable response" to its proposal to freeze the nuclear program, Losyukov stressed.

    According to him, more practical issues will be considered at the next round of the talks in Beijing in summer of 2004; however, there is no accord on some key problems.

    "Some countries want Pyongyang to give up all its nuclear programs and Pyongyang is now ready to freeze its nuclear weapons program," Losyukov said.

    North Korea denies that it has a uranium program, which arouses concern of other countries. The character of the programs Pyongyang is carrying out has been unclear, he added.

    Pyongyang is still not ready to share information and nobody went deeply into this issue during the second round, the diplomat said. "It would be more important to solve key problems of the talks and to find out the forms of liquidating or freezing North Korean nuclear programs," Losyukov said.

    The working group is to solve relevant technical issues and prepare the third round of the talks.

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