Russia has urged North Korea to discuss its nuclear program with the International Atomic Energy Agency as a way to allay international concerns. Russia's comments come as worries grow over the apparent restart of North Korea's nuclear program.

A top Russian official has issued an appeal for Pyongyang to cooperate with the IAEA, the U.N. organization which deals with nuclear matters.

Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov made his comments after North Korea announced it was restarting its nuclear facilities last week.

That move caused alarm in Washington and prompted Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to suggest the U.S. would prevail in any possible military conflict with North Korea.

Mr. Losyukov also responded to that statement, saying that making threats is not the proper way to deal with North Korea.

Russia maintains good relations with both North and South Korea, and could play a key role in easing tensions raised by the communist North's nuclear policy.

Earlier this week Pyongyang said it was restarting its nuclear program after the collapse of a 1994 agreement with the U.S. aimed at insuring North Korea won't develop nuclear weapons.

Under the agreement, Washington delivered fuel oil and promised to build new civilian nuclear power plants if Pyongyang halted development of facilities that could produce weapons-grade material.

Apart from comments on North Korea, another senior Russian official says Moscow will continue helping Iran construct a controversial nuclear power plant.

Moscow has brushed aside U.S. criticism that this only helps another country President Bush calls part of an "axis of evil," from posing a nuclear threat.