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Oil Report

U.S. and North Korean negotiators hold nuclear talks

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United States said on Thursday it wanted a “complete and correct” declaration from North Korea disclosing all the elements of its nuclear activities during talks under way in Switzerland.

The secretive communist state agreed to abandon its nuclear program under a 2005 agreement but the deal has been stalled by Pyongyang’s failure to produce a detailed declaration of its nuclear programs by the end of last year.

“What we are going to try to have is a thorough discussion of the declaration,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill told reporters ahead of the talks with his North Korean counterpart Kim Kwe-Gwan.

“It is pretty critical to get moving on this now. We are 10 weeks late already,” Hill told reporters.

The two sides held two closed-door meetings on Thursday, first at the U.S. diplomatic mission and then at the North Korean mission in Geneva. Hill postponed a planned news conference to 2200 GMT, after his dinner with Kim, but no reason was given.

The United States is offering aid and the easing of U.S. sanctions in return for full cooperation from North Korea which had agreed to abandon its nuclear programs under a September 2005 deal, U.S. officials said ahead of the meeting.

Washington wants North Korea to give up its atomic activities, any weapons and related materials before U.S. President George W. Bush leaves office next January.

Its demands for full and accurate disclosure have clashed with Pyongyang’s reluctance to discuss any transfers of nuclear technology to other nations, notably Syria, as well as its suspected pursuit of uranium enrichment.

FLEXIBLE ON FORMAT

“We can be flexible on format but we cannot be flexible on that fact that we need a complete and correct declaration -- we need all the elements there and we need them to be expressed correctly,” Hill said.

A senior U.S. official said earlier this week he believed North Korea would be comfortable with disclosing the proliferation and uranium-related activities in a separate, secret document.

Analysts say this formula could help North Korea save face and advance the stalled talks.

Hill said Washington was prepared to adjust the format “with the understanding that flexibility on format doesn’t mean flexibility on getting a complete and correct declaration”.

The United States has questions about any possible North Korean role in a suspected Syrian covert nuclear site that was bombed by Israel in September. Syria has denied having a nuclear program but the case remains murky.

A highly enriched uranium program would give North Korea a second source of nuclear-bomb making fissile material in addition to its plutonium-based nuclear facilities.

Under the so-called second phase of the denuclearization agreement, North Korea committed to disable its nuclear facility at Yongbyon, where it has produced plutonium, and to make the “complete and correct” declaration.

The other parties to the pact reached among the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States agreed to provide up to 1 million metric tons of heavy fuel oil or its equivalent.

There has been significant progress in disabling Yongbyon but North Korea has slowed down the process in recent months, arguing the others have delayed keeping their end of the deal.

Hill noted on Thursday that North Korea would have to submit the declaration to the chairman of the six-party talks, China.

Additional reporting by Paul Eckert in Washington; editing by Mary Gabriel

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