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US: Unclear How Long North Korea Talks Will Last - 2004-02-26


The U.S. State Department says it is unclear how long six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear program will last.

Delegates are gearing up for another day of negotiations, after opening discussions on Wednesday. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters in Washington Wednesday that the talks will last as long as they are useful, or conclude if they are not.

At the multi-nation talks the United States and North Korea presented vastly different positions. Washington's chief delegate, Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly, repeated a demand that North Korea dismantle, once and for all, its nuclear weapons program, including both uranium- and plutonium-based weapons. At the same time, he assured the North that the United States has no plans to attack.

North Korea has said it will freeze its nuclear program in exchange for economic compensation. But it denies the U.S. claim that it is developing uranium-based weapons.

Later, the U.S. and North Korean negotiators met behind closed doors, in the highest reported official contact between the two sides in 16 months. No details were issued. South Korean officials told reporters the U.S. and North Korean meeting lasted two-and-a-half hours.

Chinese officials say there was some consensus among the participants at the multi-party talks, although differences remain. They say delegates agreed on the need to peacefully resolve the nuclear issue.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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