- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 28, 2003

SEOUL North Korea, in a scornful diatribe during a meeting with South Korean officials in Pyongyang, demanded yesterday that the U.N. nuclear agency keep out of the standoff on the peninsula.

Seoul's presidential envoy, Lim Dong-won, met with a close confidant of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il amid speculation that his delegation could meet with Mr. Kim himself in the coming days.

The Southern delegation reported to the government in Seoul that the talks were "sincere," while the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency said discussions were held "in an atmosphere overflowing with compatriotic feelings and mutual understanding."

Washington has supported Seoul's efforts and has sought international intervention in the dispute. It also has pushed to take the nuclear issue to the U.N. Security Council, which could increase pressure on the impoverished North with sanctions.

At Seoul's request, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) indefinitely postponed a meeting of its 35-nation board to decide on Security Council intervention. Seoul feared that such a meeting would derail its diplomatic effort by enraging Pyongyang.

The North had said it would consider U.N. sanctions an act of war, and yesterday issued a diatribe against IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, calling him a "poor servant and mouthpiece" of the United States.

"It is, therefore, an objective reality that the secretariat of the IAEA is not in a position to discuss the [North Korean] issue," the KCNA said in its dispatch.

The Bush administration pushed for a meeting of the IAEA governing board on Friday, but it could not secure enough backing from the agency's 35 members. Late Friday, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said the United States did not mind the meeting's postponement.

"There is no question in my mind anyway that it will get to the IAEA for consideration," Mr. Powell told reporters traveling with him to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "There is not quite the sense of urgency that I would have liked to have seen, but it's not a major problem for us."

Yesterday, Mr. Lim, a national security adviser to outgoing South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, met with Kim Yong-sun, head of the Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, a Communist Party organization of the North handling inter-Korean affairs.

Mr. Lim and a representative of President-elect Roh Moo-hyun, who takes office Feb. 25, were expected to stay in North Korea for two or three days.

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