N. Korea Meeting Postponed

From Associated Press

The U.N. nuclear agency has indefinitely postponed an emergency meeting to discuss North Korea's nuclear programs, a spokeswoman said Saturday. South Korea had urged a delay, hoping its diplomatic efforts on the issue will bear fruit.

The International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board of governors had scheduled a meeting for Feb. 3 to consider putting the North Korea issue before the U.N. Security Council, possibly paving the way for sanctions against the isolated regime.

Agency spokeswoman Melissa Fleming would not say whether the delay was a response to South Korea's request, but she said diplomatic efforts needed a chance to succeed.

"It's important to take into consideration the views of the key players who are working toward a diplomatic solution and who have serious diplomatic initiatives underway," she said. "The key countries on the board of governors have agreed they would wait to decide on the timing of the meeting until all believe the timing would be right."

Officials from the United States, South Korea and other countries have noted progress in recent days.

A U.N. discussion could have jeopardized the successes because North Korea has said sanctions would be considered a declaration of war.

The United States had been pushing to bring the crisis before the Security Council, but the North says its dispute is with Washington only.

North Korea "is strongly opposed to any attempt to internationalize the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula and will never participate in any form of 'multiparty' talks related to the issue," an unidentified Foreign Ministry official was quoted as saying in a report by the official Korean Central News Agency.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Saturday that he was optimistic that bilateral talks eventually will be held and that a diplomatic solution to North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions can be reached.

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