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UN Chief Hails Progress on North Korean Nuclear Program

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed North Korea's move to hand over details of its nuclear program as a "very encouraging development," and urged continued progress in the six-party talks. From U.N. headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Mr. Ban said North Korea's submission of the declaration of its nuclear programs to China - as chair of the talks - and the U.S. decision to lift trade sanctions and remove Pyongyang from its list of states that sponsor terrorism are "important steps forward."

"I call on all six-party participants to take this opportunity to expedite movement towards the full implementation of the 2005 Joint Statement. I strongly support their efforts towards this end," he said.

The U.N. chief spoke to reporters as he prepares to depart Friday on a two-week trip that will take him to Japan, China, his home nation of South Korea, and then back to Japan to attend the G-8 summit. But he skirted questions about whether he might add a stop in North Korea to his itinerary.

Mr. Ban also repeated his concern about the runoff election scheduled to take place Friday in the African nation of Zimbabwe, where the government has used violence and intimidation against the opposition and its supporters.

"First and foremost at this time, my concern is how to ensure that this violence and intimidation stop and people are no longer intimidated and people no longer suffer from this humanitarian crisis. As I have urged that under these circumstances, where one cannot expect a credible and fair election, this presidential run-off election should be postponed until such time when we can create fair and credible conditions for the election," he said.

The secretary-general said he is continuing to discuss the situation with African leaders and urged them to engage in more dialogue.

Regarding his trip to Asia, the secretary-general said the meeting of the Group of 8 this year has taken on a special urgency because of three interrelated crises.

"The first and most pressing is the global food crisis. The second is climate change, and the need to act now if we are to reach an agreement to limit greenhouse gases by the end of next year. The third is the emergency of development, especially in Africa," he said.

Mr. Ban said leadership is needed on these three fronts. He warned that the food crisis and climate change are slowing and in some cases reversing progress on development in Africa, where he hopes to cut extreme poverty and disease in half by 2015.