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N. Korea Continues to Press for Talks with US

An Indonesian presidential envoy says his trip to North Korea has not changed Pyongyang's demand for direct talks with the United States to end the standoff over its nuclear program. After three days of talks in North Korea aimed at defusing tensions over North Korea's nuclear ambitions, a weary Indonesian envoy Nana Sutresna says little has changed. "Their position remains the same. They want direct talks with the United States."

North Korean officials apparently would not say if they are willing to abandon their efforts to build nuclear weapons. "That is something they want to negotiate," says Mr. Sutresna.

The Bush Administration says it is willing to talk, but wants a multilateral solution to the nuclear standoff. Washington says North Korea's efforts to build nuclear weapons and missiles that could deliver them, make this a problem that affects many nations, not just the United States.

North Korea says only talks with Washington can address its security concerns, which is why it is reserving the right to have nuclear weapons.

The comments come just before a crucial meeting of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency, the IAEA, which could refer the dispute to the United Nations Security Council, perhaps this week. The council has the power to impose sanctions or authorize military action against North Korea, though many of North Korea's neighbors oppose such actions.

The crisis broke out in October when Washington said North Korea admitted breaking international agreements to keep the Korean Peninsula nuclear free.

In response, Washington and its allies cut off promised supplies of badly needed fuel oil to North Korea. Pyongyang further raised tensions by moving to restart a nuclear reactor that was taken out of service under a 1994 agreement, expelling United Nations nuclear experts and pulling out of the global Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.