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. Rice dismisses report North Korea helping Iran prepare nuke test
PARIS, Jan 24 (AFP) Jan 24, 2007
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sought to play down a report in a British newspaper Wednesday that North Korea was helping Iran prepare an eventual nuclear test explosion.

"I don't see that it's based on anything that I've seen," Rice said of the report published in The Daily Telegraph.

"I don't see what it's based on," she told reporters accompanying her to a Lebanon donors conference in Paris.

Citing an unnamed senior European defence official, the newspaper said that North Korea has agreed to share all the data it received from its nuclear test last year as both countries face Western pressures over the development of their own nuclear programmes.

"The Iranians are working closely with the North Koreans to study the results of last year's North Korean nuclear bomb test," the European defence official was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

"We have identified increased activity at all of Iran's nuclear facilities since the turn of the year ... All the indications are that the Iranians are working hard to prepare for their own underground nuclear test."

The official also said that North Korea had invited a team of Iranian scientists to study the results of last year's underground nuclear test.

Rice also said she had spoken with her South Korean counterpart Wednesday and the foreign ministers of China and Japan on Tuesday as part of efforts to hold a new round of six-party nuclear disarmament talks with North Korea.

"We're hoping for an early resumption. I think its' time to do that," she said.

"We've had productive preparatory discussions with all of the parties, including the North Koreans, but there's not going to be an agreement until we're in the six-party format," she said.

"So I thihk people would like to get to an early resumption of the talks."

The six-nation talks involving China, Japan, Russia and the United States, as well as North and South Korea, started in 2003 but have been repeatedly suspended and have failed to yield concrete results.

The most recent round was held last month in Beijing after a 13-month break and a UN Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea for carrying out its first nuclear test explosion in October failed to make any headway.

US and North Korean negotiators met in Berlin last week and reported progress towards a resumption of the broader negotiations, but no date has been set.

Iran is also under UN sanctions since December for refusing to suspend a uranium enrichment program it says is designed to produce fuel for nuclear power production but that many fear is aimed at making nuclear weapons.

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