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China, Russia Urge Direct Talks With N. Korea - 2003-02-27

Russia and China are urging the United States to start direct talks with North Korea to solve the crisis over Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions. North Korea and Iraq top the agenda during Thursday's top-level talks in Beijing between the two countries.

In a joint statement, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and top Chinese officials expressed "deep concern" about the nuclear tensions between the United States and North Korea. They said "constructive" dialogue could be of "great significance" in calming the situation.

Washington has been pushing for multilateral talks on the issue, arguing that North Korean nuclear weapons would threaten many nations, not just the United States. Both China and Russia share borders with North Korea. Pyongyang says only Washington is threatening it and so is the only party needed in the talks.

With regard to the Iraq crisis, Chinese and Russian officials say war with Iraq "can and should be avoided." Mr. Ivanov says the two countries will look for a political solution in the United Nations.

The Russian foreign minister says Moscow and Beijing will closely coordinate their efforts in the U.N. Security Council. The positions of China and Russia are crucial because both have veto power.

The United States is seeking votes for a Security Council resolution authorizing military force to disarm Iraq.

But in Thursday's meeting, Chinese and Russian leaders said U.N. weapons inspectors have made good progress and should be given more time.