- - Monday, February 20, 2012


North sends diplomats for nuke talks with U.S.

SEOUL — North Korea’s delegation left for talks Tuesday about its nuclear program with the U.S., in what will be the first significant contact by the two sides since the death of leader Kim Jong-il.

The team headed by First Vice-Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan departed to attend “high-level talks” with the U.S., the state news agency said in a one-sentence report.

Mr. Kim will meet Glyn Davies, coordinator for U.S. policy on North Korea, in Beijing on Thursday for discussions expected to provide clues about policy directions under Pyongyang’s new leaders.

The talks will come just days after Pyongyang’s new leadership threatened “merciless” retaliation Monday for a South Korean artillery drill near their disputed sea border. North Korea did not carry out the threat.

Washington and North Korea’s neighbors are closely watching how new leader Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-il’s son, handles strained ties with rival South Korea, the planned U.S.-South Korean military drills and a long-running standoff over the country’s nuclear weapons programs. 


Nuke inspectors to press Iran on weapons

TEHRAN — U.N. nuclear inspectors starting a two-day visit to Tehran on Monday sought to meet with Iranian nuclear scientists and visit a key military facility as they try to gauge allegations that Iran is pushing toward making an atomic weapon.

The trip is the second in less than a month by the International Atomic Energy Agency team, reflecting growing concerns over alleged weapons experiments — something Iran has denied and refused to discuss.

Herman Nackaerts, a senior U.N. nuclear official, said in Vienna, Austria, before the team departed Sunday that he hopes for progress in the talks, but his careful choice of words suggested little expectation that the meeting would be successful.


Orthodox Christian urges greater religious freedom

ANKARA — The spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians said Monday that Turkey’s new constitution should grant equal rights to minorities in the country and safeguard religious freedoms.

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