Mon, Aug 04, 2003 - Page 5 News List

N Korea holds first election in five years

REUTERS , SEOUL

Stalinist North Korea staged its first general election in more than five years yesterday to fill seats in the rubber-stamp legislature, the Supreme People's Assembly.

North Korean television showed footage of voters -- many with rows of shiny medals -- leaving ballot stations and people dancing in circles in town squares.

Citizens were "participating in the election ... to devote themselves to the sacred struggle to consolidate the people's power as firm as a rock and demonstrate the dignity and might of the DPRK through the current election," the official Korean Central News Agency said.

It said that 85.68 percent of registered voters had cast their ballots by midday.

Also yesterday, North Korea said it was still ready for six-way talks to resolve a crisis over its nuclear ambitions, but it would have no dialogue with a US arms control envoy after his sharp criticism of the country and its leader.

On Thursday Undersecretary of State John Bolton referred to life in North Korea as a "hellish nightmare," saying leader Kim Jong-il lived like royalty while keeping hundreds of thousands of his people in prison camps and millions more in poverty.

North Korea and the US said on Friday they had agreed to hold six-way talks on the nuclear standoff. China, Japan, Russia and South Korea will also attend.

The prospect of fresh talks follow months of tension after Washington's announcement last October that Pyongyang had admitted to pursuing a covert nuclear weapons program.

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