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China Doubts North Korea Will Meet Nuke Deadline

Wu Dawei said issues remained with North Korea's bank account.
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) April 4, 2007
China's top negotiator with North Korea doubted Wednesday that Pyongyang would meet next week's deadline to shut down nuclear facilities in line with a breakthrough US-backed deal, reports said.

Wu Dawei, speaking to Japanese journalists in Beijing, said a row has yet to be resolved over transferring funds to North Korea that were unfrozen in a concession by the United States, Kyodo News and Jiji Press said.

"There is a gap of a certain size," Wu said, as quoted by Kyodo News.

Asked if North Korea would meet the deadline, Wu said: "I think that will be the outcome. It cannot be helped."

China is North Korea's main ally and the broker of the six-nation talks that led to a February 13 agreement with nuclear-armed Pyongyang.

Under the deal, North Korea promised to shut down and seal its plutonium-producing Yongbyon reactor and other plants by April 14 in exchange for energy aid.

But Pyongyang last month stormed out of talks -- which group the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States -- unless it receives some 25 million dollars of its funds frozen in a Macau bank.

Washington in 2005 blacklisted the money in Macau due to accusations of money laundering and counterfeiting. It announced the end of the sanction last month and said it was up to the Macau authorities to release the cash.

But the funds were not immediately transferred and North Korea has insisted it will not cooperate further unless it sees the money. The problem has reportedly stemmed from finding a bank to handle the cash.

Japan has also voiced pessimism on North Korea meeting the deadline.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Iran frees British sailors after 13-day crisis
Tehran (AFP) April 4, 2007
Iran released 15 British sailors on Wednesday as a "gift" to the people of Britain in a dramatic end to a two-week ordeal that had triggered a new diplomatic crisis between Tehran and the West.







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