The top US negotiator with North Korea, Christopher Hill, has denied that talks on ending the country's nuclear programme have reached a stalemate.
But Mr Hill made it clear the issue of whether or not Pyongyang had a uranium enrichment programme was unresolved.
He spoke a day after meeting counterpart Kim Kye-gwan for the first time since Pyongyang missed a deadline to disclose its nuclear activities.
He said Mr Kim told him North Korea was committed to the disarmament deal.
Speaking in the South Korean capital, Seoul, Mr Hill acknowledged that the talks had hit a rough patch.
North Korea failed to provide a full declaration of its nuclear activities by the end of 2007 as promised.
One issue is whether or not Pyongyang has a secret programme to enrich uranium for weapons purposes - something that the US believes but which North Korea denies.
"We cannot pretend that activities don't exist when we know that the activities have existed," Mr Hill said.
"I made it very clear that for us to proceed, we need a complete and correct declaration."
North Korea was now trying to demonstrate that equipment it had bought that could be used to enrich uranium was not being used for such a programme, he said.
The US envoy said he had also received an assurance from Mr Kim that North Korea was not engaged in proliferation.
Mr Kim "wanted to make very clear that they are not at present having any nuclear cooperation with any other country and they will not in the future have any nuclear cooperation with any other country", he said.
Mr Hill is on a tour of the East Asia region to prepare for a visit by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice next week.
Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7254180.stm
North Korea has again denied running a clandestine program to enrich uranium for weapons, long suspected by the United States, a top U.S. nuclear envoy said on Wednesday.
U.S. envoy Christopher Hill was speaking after talks in Beijing on Tuesday, when he pressed North Korean nuclear envoy Kim Kye-gwan to meet his country's side of an international agreement to own up to all its nuclear weapons programs.
"They continue to take what they call a principled position that they have not engaged in any uranium enrichment activity," Hill told reporters in Seoul.
Pyongyang has already missed an end-2007 deadline to detail all its efforts to create an atomic arsenal under an agreement that regional powers hope will eventually lead the communist state to completely end its nuclear weapons ambitions in return for massive aid and an end to its international pariah status.
"We have a situation where they have purchased some equipment and have been trying to show to us that this equipment is not being used for uranium enrichment," Hill said.
"We cannot pretend that activities don't exist when we know that the activities have existed."
The United States in 2002 first accused the North of running a covert nuclear program by enriching uranium, a charge that triggered the demise of a 1994 deal to disarm the North's nuclear arms program.
Plutonium and enriched uranium can both be used to fuel nuclear weapons. North Korea tested a plutonium-based nuclear weapon in October 2006, alarming Washington and Asian neighbors.
Hill described the nuclear talks among the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States as being in a rough patch but said that they had not reached a dead end.
And he quoted Kim as saying North Korea was committed to making progress in the nuclear deal.
"Mr. Kim Kye-gwan was very careful not to describe this as any kind of stalemate," he said before leaving for Tokyo later on Wednesday.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that Iran's determination to continue its nuclear program had brought major powers "to their knees."
In a speech broadcast live on state television, Ahmadinejad repeated his assertion that Iran would ignore demands by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council that it suspend sensitive nuclear work or face new sanctions. The United Nations has already imposed two rounds of sanctions that limit international transactions by Iran's financial institutions, restrict travel by certain high-ranking officials and seek to curtail Iran's access to nuclear-related materials.
"The Iranian nation will not allow any power to trample even on its smallest right," Ahmadinejad said at a rally during a visit to the southern port city of Bandar Abbas. "They expected the Iranian nation to surrender after a resolution is issued or sanctions are imposed, but today it has brought all big powers to their knees." The speech drew chants of "Nuclear energy is our undisputed right!" from the crowd.
Iran, a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has long insisted it intends to produce nuclear energy for the peaceful purpose of generating electricity for its 65 million inhabitants.
The United States and European countries say they fear Iran's goal is to make nuclear weapons. Russia and China, two of Iran's important trading partners with seats on the Security Council, have tried to limit the scope of the resolutions intended to pressure the Tehran government. Russia is building a nuclear reactor at the port city of Bushehr.
Ahmadinejad said he expected that a forthcoming report by the International Atomic Energy Agency would declare that Iran's program is legal and that there "is no diversion" toward a weapons program.
The agency's assessment, expected Friday, is supposed to clarify outstanding issues between Iran and the IAEA. Its head, Mohamed ElBaradei, has cited "good progress" in the negotiations, which have been going on for more than five years. A final report could form the basis for additional Security Council action against Iran or lead to a resolution of the dispute.
The Iranian president also commented on the assassination of Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyah in the Syrian capital of Damascus last week. The Lebanese Shiite Muslim militia blamed Israel for the attack, an allegation Israel has denied.
Ahmadinejad, a frequent critic of Israel, said the Jewish state and its supporters "assassinated pure people," referring to "this brave son of Lebanon who stood up in the face of the Zionist regime's savage attack on Lebanon and broke the Zionist's horn."
The United States held Mughniyah responsible for bombing attacks in Beirut in the 1980s that killed hundreds of Americans, and Israel said he planned attacks on its embassy and a community center in Argentina that left more than 100 people dead.
1. India Must Pass by July Key India-US Nuclear Deal
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India must complete by July all steps needed to conclude a nuclear technology deal with Washington to ensure the US Congress approves it before the presidential polls, three US senators said.
The India-US civilian nuclear energy deal has been held up due to stiff opposition from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Communist allies who prop up the minority Congress-led government.
"Time is of the essence," said Joseph Biden, one of three Democratic senators who were on a one-day visit to New Delhi after monitoring Pakistan's parliamentary elections earlier this week.
The pact still needs approval from the International Atomic Energy Agency to place India's civilian nuclear reactors under UN safeguards as well as from the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, which regulates global civilian nuclear trade.
The agreement, which would give New Delhi crucial access to civilian atomic technology, requires final approval by the US Congress where it currently enjoys bipartisan support.
But Washington officials say the deal is running out of time with a tight 2008 legislative calendar ahead of November's US presidential elections.
"If we don't have the deal back with us clearly prior to the month of July it will be very difficult to ratify the deal -- not on the merits (of the deal) but on the mechanics on which our system functions," Biden told a news conference.
He warned that if the deal did not reach the US Congress in time, "it is highly unlikely the next president will be able to present the same deal.
"It will be renegotiated," he said.
Biden's warning came a week after India's most prominent Marxist politician Prakash Karat said his party wanted to see India and the United States hold fresh talks on the nuclear pact under a new US administration.
India tested nuclear weapons in 1974 and 1998 and, as a result, is banned from buying fuel for atomic reactors and related equipment.
India's government, which says the deal is vital to keep its energy-hungry economy growing, has agreed to open 14 of India's 22 reactors to international inspections in return for technology and atomic plants.
But the Communists oppose the deal, saying it threatens India's nuclear weapons programme and allies the country too closely with the United States.
The deal, first agreed to by US President George W. Bush and Singh in 2005, is regarded by the governments of the two nations as a cornerstone of new, warmer Indo-US ties.
Former US presidential candidate John Kerry, who accompanied Biden along with US Senator Chuck Hagel, said New Delhi should clear the decks for the deal as soon as possible.
"July is the end -- it's only an even chance even then" that the deal will be cleared by the US Congress, Kerry said.
According to Biden, Singh "appeared to be still optimistic" about the bill's clearance by India despite opposition from the left parties.
1. Germany Outlines Multiparty Approach to Nuclear Fuel Cycle
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A German proposal calling for a multilateral approach to the matter of ensuring fuel supply to nuclear power plants will be presented at IAEA headquarters on 19 February. The plan, entitled the Multilateral Enrichment Sanctuary Project (MESP), is one among several proposals that aim to tackle the issue of assuring supply and services of nuclear fuel while seeking to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime through better control over the sensitive elements of the nuclear fuel cycle. Through the arrangement, States abiding by their safeguards and non-proliferation obligations would be guaranteed access to nuclear fuel regardless of political consideration, which could conceivably reduce the incentives for new national uranium enrichment facilities.
"Germany respects the right of every country to decide on its own energy mix, including nuclear energy," said German Ambassador Peter Gottwald, who will be hosting the Tuesday presentation. "We respect the inalienable right of every country to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, yet at the same time we all share a clear interest in minimizing possible proliferation risks emanating from the predicted wider use of nuclear power for civil purposes. Therefore, we have proposed an International Enrichment Centre under IAEA control to accommodate legitimate concerns of potential consumers, who are interested in using nuclear energy, as well as addressing well-founded proliferation concerns of the international community."
The German arrangement calls for the construction of an IAEA-supervised, commercially-administered uranium enrichment plant based on international property, which would be donated by a host country. The legal standing of the plantï¿½s territory would be akin to the status afforded to international organizations in host countries, whereby the IAEA would be given sovereign rights over the territory. The plant would be operated by a private firm. However, the Agency would retain control of a buffer fuel stock to distribute when requested by a State facing political or economic blockage of shipment.
As the German scenario seeks to diversify control over global enrichment capacity, the proposal recommends that the site be based in a State that does not currently have enrichment capability. (Uranium enrichment for trade currently takes place in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.) Additional criteria for the host country include the need for reliable infrastructure, good accessibility (shipping access by sea is noted), political stability, and full adherence to safeguards agreements and the NPT.
Under the MESP initiative, the Agency would have the authority to exercise control over low-enriched uranium (LEU) exported from the neutral area. The enrichment firm, however, would retain privileges related to the construction, operation, and management of the LEU plant. Controls would be put in place to ensure that the plant would not enjoy a competitive advantage in terms of price or other benefits vis-ï¿½-vis competing firms on the global LEU market.
The German proposal was initially delivered to the Agency on 26 April 2007.
As reported last month, plans for the mutual assurance of a nuclear fuel supply are not new, and the general concept has been mulled over by various parties for decades.
In addition to the German model, additional proposals under consideration include:
* A Russian bid that establishes an International Uranium Enrichment Centre, based at the Angarsk Electrolysis Chemical Complex, in Eastern Siberia, which is already a manufacturer of LEU. An IAEA-controlled LEU reserve would be located at the complex and guaranteed to States who are in compliance with the non-proliferation regime and whose supply encounters interruption of service;
* A proposal put forth by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), a US-based non-governmental organization that would establish a nuclear fuel bank in a location to be designated by the IAEA. To date, $100 million has been earmarked for the NTI plan, which calls for the IAEA and its Member States to administer a stockpile of LEU that would be available on a non-discriminatory, non-political basis to States who meet non-proliferation requirements. Warren Buffett, an advisor to NTI's Board of Directors, donated the initial $50m to the plan in September 2006, and the US Congress recently allocated another $50m to the proposal in a funding bill signed in December 2007. A remaining $50m contribution needs to be made for full funding of the plan;
* A system proposed by Japan in which the IAEA would maintain a registry of participating States and their nuclear fuel supply capacity. The IAEA Standby Arrangements System for the Assurance of Nuclear Fuel Supply would spring to action in the instance of a market failure by providing supply assurance from participating States. One point of distinction for the Japanese arrangement is that it would cover multiple activities at the front-end of the fuel cycle and not simply enriched uranium; and
* Additional multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle include an Austrian proposal, a report by the World Nuclear Association, another American proposal associated with the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), and a six-party multilateral approach put forth in 2006, among others.
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