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Russian Plan: Nuclear-Free Korean Peninsula For Security Guarantees - 2003-01-19

Russia has submitted a plan to North Korea aimed at ending the standoff over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov said he handed the Russian proposal to North Korean leaders and expects a response from them soon.

Mr. Losyukov was sent to North Korea by President Vladimir Putin.

Russian news agencies say the plan calls for a nuclear-free Korea in exchange for security guarantees. New humanitarian aid would also be sent to the north, where many people are said to be on the verge of starvation.

The Russian minister described the talks with North Korean officials as constructive.

Russia is in a good position to act as intermediary, given that it has close ties with the communist regime in Pyongyang.

But North Korea's official news agency carried a report rejecting international mediation to deal with the issue. The state-run Korea Central News Agency said that talks must be held directly with the United States. Washington has rejected North Korea's demand for an official non-aggression pact, as well as American overtures to hold discussions "but not negotiate" with Pyongyang.

Last month North Korea restarted a nuclear facility saying the action was necessary after the United States halted shipments of fuel oil under a 1994 agreement, which defused an earlier standoff.

Washington said it suspended the fuel shipments after North Korea admitted it is still developing nuclear weapons.