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Rice Demands 'Concrete Step Forward' On North Korea Nuclear Talks

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Sylvie Lanteaume
Hanoi (AFP) Nov 16, 2006
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned Thursday North Korea had to do more to show it was committed to resuming crunch talks on dismantling its nuclear weapons drive. "We need a concrete step forward," Rice said after joining ministers for talks dominated by the North Korean crisis on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

Other foreign ministers also kept up the pressure on the Stalinist regime, saying the negotiations had to show real progress when they restarted, or the world community would quickly lose faith in the process.

"I do think after having set off a nuclear test the North Koreans need to do something to demonstrate they actually are committed to denuclearization that goes beyond words," Rice told reporters after the meeting.

"I think there is some scepticism about that."

Rice said the key was first to ensure the talks would be well prepared when they did resume, and then to focus on setting a date as soon as possible.

"It does not make sense for us to have talks unless we think it is going to be fruitful. It does not make sense just to go back," she added.

The US secretary of state, who arrived in Hanoi overnight ahead of a weekend summit of APEC leaders, joined Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing and other ministers at a breakfast meeting early Thursday.

"Return to six-party talks as soon as possible, that's our suggestion," Li said as he left that meeting.

The talks, which group the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States, have been in limbo since last November, after Pyongyang walked out in protest at US financial sanctions.

However, the North agreed two weeks ago to return to the talks amid fierce international condemnation -- including from closest ally China -- of its October 9 nuclear test.

US chief negotiator Christopher Hill met here Wednesday with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts and said they would propose several dates to the Chinese for when negotiations could restart, hopefully in early December.

Li said: "I think we should create the conditions for everyone to work hard to return to the six-party talks as soon as possible, in order to achieve the objective of a nuclear-free peninsula at an early date."

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said any resumed negotiations had to lead to North Korea taking "real and verifiable steps".

He added: "There is a view expressed by some that the six-party talks have to go somewhere, or else the international community and the public in the world will just lose faith in the six-party process."

Downer said China was pivotal to the process, having been "dealt with very badly" by the North twice this year -- in July when it test-fired missiles and again with last month's test.

"The Chinese government tried to talk them out of doing both these things, and I think North Korea has been quite shocked by how China has gone along with (UN Security Council) resolution 1718.

"I think this agreement by North Korea to come back to the six-party talks before the end of the year is significantly a response to the anger of China."

New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters described the informal meeting as "fruitful and valuable", saying Li's speech to his counterparts had "added very much to the discussions, gave us a view of China's perspective, and that is very significant, particularly on the issue of the six-party talks".

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Ahmadinejad Says Iran Ready For 'Final Nuclear Step'
Tehran (AFP) Nov 16, 2006
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday said Iran was ready to take the "final step" in its nuclear programme as world powers remained deadlocked over imposing UN sanctions. "The enemies of the Iranian people must know that the Iranian people have taken their decision and will resist until the end," the semi-official Mehr agency quoted him as saying in a speech in Baneh in Kordestan province.

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