Sun, Sep 30, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Bush authorizes millions in energy aid for North Korea

TALKS The move was in response to Pyongyang's progress on reporting its nuclear facilities, but the US negotiator said that more needs to be done

AFP , BEIJING

Six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear program entered a third day yesterday after US President George W. Bush authorized US$25 million in energy aid for the impoverished nation.

Chief US negotiator Christopher Hill said he expected the morning's talks to centre on fuel aid, while also making a surprise announcement that the talks could wind up in the afternoon, a day ahead of schedule.

"I think we're going to be discussing a lot of details, and today the details are probably more about fuel assistance," Hill told reporters before leaving his hotel for the morning's meetings.

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said on Friday Bush had given the go-ahead for US$25 million in fuel aid for 50,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil.

The aid was in response to North Korea's progress on reporting and disabling its nuclear facilities as required in a February "Initial Actions" agreement aimed at halting Pyongyang's drive for nuclear weapons, he said.

The move came after Hill said on Friday that North Korea had agreed to take further steps toward ending its nuclear weapons programs.

But Hill also said on Friday that more needed to be done in pushing forward the negotiating process, and yesterday morning the US envoy suggested he was getting ready to go home.

"I've got a plane reservation for this afternoon. I've got to get back to New York. So I hope we can wrap things up today," he said.

Other delegates said they still expected another day of talks before concluding this round of meetings today.

"A flight reservation can be cancelled or rescheduled anytime," a member of the South Korean delegation said. "We, the South Korean delegates, still plan to head back home on Monday if the six-party talks wrap up on Sunday as scheduled."

The chief envoys from the six nations -- China, the two Koreas, the US, Japan and Russia -- were scheduled to meet yesterday morning.

North Korea had signaled ahead of this week's session that it was willing to continue pushing ahead with a landmark disarmament deal brokered in February in the six-nation forum.

That deal saw North Korea agree to abandon the nuclear weapons programs it has spent decades developing in return for 1 million tonnes of fuel oil or equivalent aid, as well as diplomatic and security concessions.

In July, North Korea shut down its main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon and four other related facilities.

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