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North Korean nuclear talks break down

world Updated: Mar 23, 2007 17:54 IST

The United States envoy to talks on dismantling North Korea's nuclear programmes on Friday said negotiations could resume in a week or two after talks abruptly ended without progress because of a financial dispute.

The failed session was the latest blow to the six-nation negotiations and could imperil a fragile disarmament process.

Delegates are scrambling to meet a series of tight deadlines on shutting down the North's main nuclear reactor and delivering energy aid in return before an April 14 deadline.

US envoy Christopher Hill said this morning before departing Beijing it was "quite possible" the talks could start again within a week or two once the financial issue had been cleared up.

The talks between the Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and China opened Monday with the aim of fine-tuning ways to implement a hard-fought February 13 agreement, under which the North would ultimately fully disclose and dismantle all its nuclear programmes.

But discussions never got off the ground because of a drawn out dispute over the transfer of North Korean funds that had been frozen in Banco Delta Asia, a lender in the Chinese territory of Macau.

North Korea had refused to participate in full six-party talks until all $25 million was released.

But moving the money through the international banking system has proved challenging because the US claims some of it has been linked to counterfeiting and money laundering activities.

The other envoys became impatient and on yesterday, China issued a statement saying they would take a recess, but did not give a restart date.