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White House Says No to Separate Deal with Pyongyang

The United States and North Korea are continuing to meet on the sidelines of the six-party talks on Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions. But, U.S. officials stress they are not seeking a separate deal with the North Koreans.

The contacts between the United States and North Korea have become a regular feature of this latest round of nuclear talks in Beijing.

There have been three lengthy meetings so far. They may signal a new American approach to dealing with the North Koreans - one that includes frequent informal discussions. But the White House rejects the notion that the Bush administration has any interest in negotiating a bilateral deal with Pyongyang.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan says the Americans are meeting individually on the sidelines with all the other delegations in an effort to better understand their respective positions.

"We have met with the North Korean delegations and other delegations within the context of the six-party talks," he said. "It is something we have done in each of the rounds of talks."

He stresses that North Korea's nuclear program is a concern throughout the region, and that is why the United States is pursuing a multilateral approach that also includes South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.

"We have no intention of negotiating any bilateral agreement with North Korea," he said. "That approach was tried and it failed. North Korea, I will remind you, violated the 1994 Agreed Framework."

Thursday's session of the six-party talks yielded no breakthroughs, but there were some positive signs. The U.S. envoy to the talks, Christopher Hill, said all parties are about to begin work on some sort of joint statement.

"We had a lot of discussions with a lot of the delegations. We'd like to see if we can put some of these thoughts down on paper and see where we are," he said.

But he made clear this written statement will not be definitive, and that sharp divisions remain. North Korea is demanding security guarantees and aid before it begins to scrap its nuclear program. The United States says the program must be dismantled in a verifiable way before any benefits can go to Pyongyang.