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North Korean Envoy To Hold Talks With US Lawmakers On Capitol Hill

North Korean Ambassador to the UN Song Ryol Han.

Washington DC (AFP) Oct 27, 2005
North Korea's envoy to the United Nations will hold talks with US lawmakers Thursday in his first visit to the House of Representatives, as Washington moves to end Pyongyang's nuclear weapons drive.

Curt Weldon, the vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and the first lawmaker to lead a congressional delegation to North Korea, will host Ambassador Han Song Ryol at the luncheon talks.

"This is Ambassador Han's first visit to the House of Representatives at the invitation of Congressman Weldon, and important bilateral issues will be discussed," Weldon's spokesman John Tomaszewski told AFP.

"It is healthy for improvement of relations," he said.

The move comes as the United States prepares for a fifth round of multilateral talks in Beijing in November aimed at wooing North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons in return for security guarantees, energy aid and normalization of diplomatic relations.

Han had attended a forum on North Korea at the Senate last year.

The United States does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea and often uses the hardline communist state's UN representative office as a medium for direct talks on issues related to the six-nation nuclear meeting.

The State Department must approve any travel by Han outside a 25-mile (40-kilometer) radius of New York City.

Through their talks with Han, US legislators could gauge North Korea's seriousness in wanting to resolve the nuclear dispute, sources on Capitol Hill said.

As North Korea had previously reneged on its promise to give up nuclear weapons, US legislators have demanded a solid final agreement with Pyongyang in the six-party talks to ensure that it kept its side of the bargain.

"Such a final deal must be air tight to ensure that we have not given away the farm with little in return beyond more broken promises from Pyongyang," Henry Hyde, chairman of the House international relations committee, told a hearing this month.

The six-party talks are among the United States, the two Koreas, China, Russia and Japan.

Weldon, the Republican representative for Pennsylvania, had visited Han in New York numerous times and led the largest congressional team to North Korea in 2003.

The trip came amid a period of escalating tensions resulting from North Korea's October 2002 admission of its nuclear-weapons-related uranium enrichment program and subsequent withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and expulsion of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.

At the last round of talks in Beijing in September, North Korea agreed to a statement of principles under which it would give up its nuclear weapons in return for energy and security guarantees.

But soon afterward, Pyongyang said it would not dismantle its nuclear arsenal before the United States supplies it with a light-water atomic reactor to generate electricity.

Despite this, the Stalinist state said this week that it would attend the fifth round of talks, and reiterated its commitment to ridding the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons.

Chinese President Hu Jintao leaves on Friday for his first visit to North Korea since assuming power in 2002. He is scheduled to meet the nation's reclusive leader, Kim Jong-Il.

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Diplomacy On Iran's Nuclear Program To Continue: Analysts
Vienna, Austria (AFP) Oct 27, 2005
The Iranian president's call for Israel to be "wiped off the map" is a blow to international talks over Iran's nuclear program but does not mean Tehran necessarily faces UN reprisals, diplomats and analysts told AFP Thursday.

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