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Rice: US Has Not Lost Patience With Six-Party Talks

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the United States remains committed to the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program. But speaking en route to Brazil, the secretary said the United States reserves the right to take the issue to the U.N. Security Council.

The Chinese-hosted six-party talks have been idle since last June with North Korea refusing to return to the bargaining table.

But Secretary Rice says the United States still believes that much can be achieved through the six-party framework, and that the Bush administration has put no deadline on the negotiations.

The secretary of state spoke to reporters while en route to South America following a news report Monday that the United States was considering asking for a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the interception of shipments leaving North Korea that might contain nuclear materials.

Ms. Rice, in the airborne news conference, did not reject The New York Times account out of hand, saying the United States "obviously" reserves the right to go to the Security Council concerning North Korea at any time.

However, she also said the Bush administration's Proliferation Security Initiative already provides an effective way to deal with attempts to export weapons of mass destruction, and does not require Security Council authorization.

"We've demonstrated that through the Proliferation Security Initiative, which has already had a couple of very major operations that have yielded both information and cargo that was associated with weapons of mass destruction or weapons of mass destruction technology," said Ms. Rice. "So the Proliferation Security Initiative is always there, it does not require further action, further resolutions of any kind, it's based on existing international law and existing national laws, and it's a very effective tool to deal with problems of proliferation that might resort from any place in the world."

More than 60 countries are participating in the U.S.-led initiative, which has included interdiction exercises around the world, including one last year in waters off Japan not far from North Korea.

Secretary Rice said she had no timetable for the resumption of the six-party talks but said the United States is consulting with other participants and that they "agree completely" that the problem of the North Korean nuclear program needs to be resolved.

The United States, in a proposal presented last year, has offered to be part of multilateral guarantees for North Korea's security as part of a deal for the complete and verifiable dismantling of its nuclear program.

Other parties to the talks, including Japan, South Korea, China and Russia, could extend aid to Pyongyang as the process unfolds, though any U.S. assistance would come only after disarmament was completed.

Brazil is Ms. Rice's first stop on a trip to the region that will also take her to Colombia, Chile and El Salvador.