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North Korea Nuclear Negotiations Could Re-Start Soon

The U.S. chief negotiator on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programs says talks could re-start soon, after host China agreed to arrange them as quickly as possible. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

U.S. envoy Christopher Hill said Monday negotiations will likely re-start shortly after China consults with the other parties in the six-nation talks.

Hill made the comments after meeting with Chinese officials, who he said agreed the talks should resume as soon as a date can be agreed.

Speaking with reporters Monday before leaving Beijing, Hill said "based on all the consultations we've had in the last week or so, I think we have a basis for getting together as soon as possible in the six-party process and making progress."

New hope for the talks came last week when U.S. and North Korean diplomats met in Berlin and agreed to resume negotiations.

North Korea agreed to abandon its nuclear programs in September 2005 in exchange for aid and security guarantees from the U.S., China, Japan, South Korea, and Russia.

However, Pyongyang refused to work on implementing the agreement for more than a year after the U.S. slapped financial sanctions on a Macau bank for allegedly helping North Korean money laundering.

North Korea wants the sanctions lifted, but the U.S. has said it is a criminal matter and not part of negotiations on Pyongyang's nuclear programs.

North Korea returned to the negotiating table in Beijing in December after the U.S. agreed to discuss the sanctions in separate meetings.

No breakthrough was made during the December meeting.

Before arriving in China Sunday, Hill met with officials in South Korea and Japan to discuss the Berlin meeting and getting back to talks.

The nuclear issue took on a new urgency when North Korea defied warnings from the international community last October and went ahead with a nuclear test, sparking U.N. sanctions against the isolated nation.

Hill says the U.S. and North Korea will hold another meeting on the financial sanctions either before or at the same time as the six-nation talks. But he said a venue has not yet been decided.