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N. Korea nuclear talks shun deadlines for disarmament

July 20, 2007|From Reuters

BEIJING — Talks to end North Korea's nuclear arms program veered away Thursday from setting a deadline for the next phase of disarmament but settled on a set of tasks the United States said could be carried out this year.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said this week that North Korea had closed five main nuclear facilities, completing the first stage of a disarmament deal reached in February.

The six-nation talks in Beijing were seeking consensus on the second stage of disarmament: permanently disabling the Yongbyon nuclear complex and receiving a full declaration of Pyongyang's atomic arms activities in return for heavy fuel oil.

Chief U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill said the envoys broadly agreed on how that next phase will unfold but did not agree on a deadline. At the start of the latest talks Wednesday, he had proposed completing the steps by year's end.

Closure of the Yongbyon nuclear complex was delayed for many weeks by a financial snarl that held up North Korea's receipt of more than $20 million in frozen bank funds.

Hill said negotiators wanted to avoid more broken deadlines.

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