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. Bush warns North Korea against any nuclear technology proliferation

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Sept 20, 2007
US President George W. Bush on Thursday warned North Korea against supplying nuclear know-how to Syria, saying key six-party talks with Pyongyang could only succeed if it met all its pledges.

"We expect them to honor their commitment to give up weapons and weapons programs and to the extent that they are proliferating, we expect them to stop their proliferation," Bush told reporters.

He also warned against states sharing "information and/or materials" linked to nuclear weapons.

In a landmark six-nation deal brokered in February, the Communist regime in North Korea agreed to dismantle all its nuclear facilities and programs in exchange for diplomatic concessions, energy and other aid.

But the next round of talks on the deal due on Wednesday were suddenly postponed amid a flurry of reports that Pyongyang was secretly helping Damascus to develop nuclear weapons.

Bush refused to comment directly on the reports, saying only that for the six-party talks to succeed, "the concept of proliferation is equally important as getting rid of programs and weapons."

The talks group the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

Pyongyang has angrily denied helping Syria, insisting it was keeping an earlier pledge not to allow the transfer of nuclear materials.

And Syria has denounced what it called US "lies" that it was receiving nuclear material from North Korea.

Some US media reports have said an Israeli air strike in Syria earlier this month may have targeted a joint nuclear project.

But a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said such talk was nothing but a "clumsy plot" against Pyongyang.

"Recently some US media including the New York Times have been spreading allegations that we are secretly helping Syria with its nuclear program. Such reports are groundless and misleading," the spokesman said in a statement published by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

There has been intense speculation over the Israeli air raid on Syria, which the Jewish state said had helped recover its "deterrent capability" against any attack, but Bush also refused Thursday to make any comment about it.

An unnamed Seoul government official meanwhile told South Korea's Yonhap news agency that the six-party talks, which were launched in 2003, could resume in Beijing next week after a week-long postponement.

"We are preparing for the talks, assuming that the talks will open on the 27," he said.

"China will soon announce a new schedule for the talks after consultations with other participants."

A South Korean official told AFP however that no firm date had been fixed.

At the upcoming round, representatives of the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States were expected to work on setting a firm deadline for the disabling of Pyongyang's nuclear facilities.

But analysts say the allegations over the possible nuclear collaboration between Pyongyang and Damascus seemed likely to throw a wrench in the negotiations.

"Pyongyang will find these allegations very irritating. Both Pyongyang and its opponents may find an excuse in these allegations to delay the nuclear talks," said Baek Seung-Joo, an analyst at the Korea Institute for Defence Analysis.

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