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Calls on DPR of Korea's partners: nuclear talks

Annan calls on DPR of Korea's partners to bring it back to nuclear talks

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called on the partners of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to bring the country back to the negotiating table as quickly as possible following its announcement that it had pulled out indefinitely from six-party talks on its nuclear weapons programme.

"I hope it's not a definitive position because quite a lot of the other countries involved in the six-party talks and my own envoy (Maurice Strong),who has been visiting North Korea and the region, believe that that is the route to go and they are hopeful that it will yield results," Mr. Annan told a press encounter in London.

"I expect that with efforts by the other countries involved, North Korea could be brought back to the table. And so, I would urge them to engage North Korea and bring them back to the table and for the talks to resume as quickly as possible," he added of the so-called Beijing process between the DPRK, the Republic of Korea, China, Japan, the Russian Federation and the United States.

The six nations have been engaged in talks since DPRK announced in late 2002 that it planned to "lift the freeze" on its nuclear activities and that it was pulling out of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). Today it announced for the first time that it possessed nuclear weapons.

The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said that it believes the DPRK has the capacity to build nuclear weapons, but it expressed the hope that a settlement of the issue can be resolved through negotiations. The Agency says its ultimate goal would be the resumption of inspections in that country that ended with its withdrawal from the NPT.

Mr. Annan, in London to deliver a speech on his vision of UN reform and the threats of terrorism and poverty facing the world, earlier met with British Prime Minister Blair, who called the Secretary-General a man who, in a tough time, has handled himself with great distinction and wisdom and has been "a tremendous unifier."

They discussed the results of the Iraq elections and the transitional process currently underway, UN reform, Afghanistan and developments in Africa.

Mr. Annan later had a working lunch with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. Asked at the news conference about Iran, the Secretary-General said he was very encouraged by discussions taking place between Iran and three European countries - France, Germany and the United Kingdom - on Tehran's nuclear programme.

"I think it is a very healthy sign, and dialogue is the way to go," he declared. "I hope everyone involved will take it seriously and achieve the right results and I think it can be achieved if everyone gets to the table with an open mind and the determination to find a solution."

Mr. Annan later met with Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown and the Secretary of State for International Development Hilary Benn, with whom he discussed the recent decision by the Group of Seven industrialized countries to forgive the debts of African nations. They also touched on financing for development, including involvement by the private sector.


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