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US, Russia Discuss N. Korea, Iraq Arms Programs

A top U.S. arms envoy is in Moscow for talks about North Korea and Iraq's programs to develop weapons of mass destruction. The original purpose of Under Secretary of State John Bolton's visit was to prepare for a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference next week in Mexico.

But diplomats say the agenda has been changed, following the U.S. announcement last week that North Korea admitted to having a nuclear weapons program.

Mr. Bolton is now expected to seek Russian views on ways to influence North Korea to drop its nuclear weapons program.

Moscow says it will consult with its partners, including North Korea, before commenting on the latest developments.

Many observers say Russia has assisted North Korea's nuclear program, a charge that Russia has vehemently denied, saying it was not based in reality.

Mr. Bolton is also to discuss Iraq with Russian officials. The United States is seeking Russian support for a U.N. Security Council resolution that sets stringent guidelines for the removal of weapons of mass destruction from Iraq.

A U.S. proposal would authorize the use of force to enforce the resolution.

Late last week, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said if international weapons inspectors face problems in their work then, and only then, should decisions be made about possible use of force.

Also on Mr. Bolton's agenda is U.S. concern about Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran and its plans to help Tehran build a nuclear reactor.

After his talks with Russian officials, Mr. Bolton is expected to go to Western Europe to brief allies there on nuclear security issues.