01/19/2007, 00.00
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Pyongyang speaks of progress with US on nuclear programme

North Korean negotiator says bilateral talks in Berlin have brought agreements with the US. Washington does not confirm, but stresses that bilateral talks are prelude to six-party talks.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – North Korea announced progress in talks with the US over its nuclear weapons programme. The two sides reached some agreements at a meeting in Berlin this week, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

Mr Hill and his North Korean counterpart Kim Kye-gwan yesterday ended three days of unprecedented talks. The meeting took place "in a positive and sincere atmosphere, and a certain agreement was reached there," the North Korean spokesman.

For years the US rejected demands for direct bilateral talks, but for Washington what “you had [. . .] this week in Berlin were talks [. . .] as preparations for the six-party talks,” a US spokesperson said.

Indeed, Hill has just arrived in Seoul, and will also travel to Beijing and Tokyo. A US source said that the US envoy wants to meet each party in the six-nation talks (North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the US) to explain the US position.

In September 2005 Pyongyang accepted to participate in exchange for energy suppliers and economic aid. But talks came to an abrupt end two months later when the US prevented the Communist regime access to foreign banks accusing it of recycling money and faking dollars.

Meetings were back on the agenda last December, in large measure because of pressures exerted by Beijing on the North Koreans after they fired a nuclear rocket. So far though such meetings have yielded nothing.

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