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S. Korea urges US to start talks

Seoul, Jan. 17 (Reuters): South Korean President-elect Roh Moo-hyun urged the US today to open talks with Communist North Korea to try to solve the peninsula's nuclear crisis.

And in a sign Washington is eager to end a stand-off that has become a distraction from its campaign to disarm Iraq, a senior US official said he saw hope for a diplomatic solution.

Adding to the flurry of diplomatic activity to calm an escalating crisis that has raised fears about just how it will end, a Russian envoy landed in Beijing today en route to Pyongyang, saying he was optimistic about his delicate mission.

“South Korea needs to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear development programme,” Roh said.

“In order to convince North Korea, there needs to be dialogue between North Korea and the US. I would like to urge the United States to actively pursue dialogue with North Korea.”

The White House had no immediate comment on Roh’s proposal. North Korea said it would talk to no one but the US, and maintained its anti-American bombast even while extending a twig of an olive branch.

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