March 17, 2006

N.Korea wants Norway to broker nuclear deal

OSLO (Reuters) - North Korea wants Norway to mediate in its
nuclear standoff with the international community, a newspaper
reported on Friday, but Oslo said it favored a resumption of
stalled multi-lateral talks.

North Korea says it has nuclear weapons, though the United
States has been unable to confirm this, and six-party talks
aimed at ending the communist state's nuclear weapons program
ran aground in November.

"Norway has a good reputation as a peace mediator and very
good experience in international conflict resolution," North
Korea's ambassador to the Nordic region, Jon In Chan, told
Verdens Gang, Norway's top selling daily.

"We hope Norway can contribute as conflict solver in the
ongoing nuclear dispute between the U.S. and North Korea."

Norway played down the offer, however.

"We have no intention of taking unilateral action toward
North Korea," Deputy Foreign Minister Raymond Johansen told

He said the country backed the six-party talks involving
the United States, Russia, Japan, China and the two Koreas.

Since talks stalled, the United States has cracked down on
firms it suspects of helping North Korea in illicit activity
such as currency counterfeiting. Pyongyang has refused to
return to the talks until Washington calls off its drive.

Norway's Johansen said he would bring up the nuclear
question when he visited North Korea later in the year to
discuss humanitarian aid.

"The international community should urge a six-party
agreement, but if there is anything any one country can do
toward North Korea, we would welcome it."

He said North Korea's ambassador had not raised the
question when they spoke on Wednesday. The North Korean embassy
in Stockholm, where the ambassador is based, declined to

Norway, a member of NATO but not of the European Union, has
a reputation as a peace mediator after involvement in seeking
to end conflicts from the Middle East to Sri Lanka.

It is also the home of the Nobel Peace Prize and in 1999
the committee, which is independent of the government, gave the
award to South Korea's former President Kim Dae-jung for his
efforts to mediate a peace with North Korea, still technically
an enemy since the 1950-53 war.