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Six-Party Talks Focuses on Energy Aid, Uncertainty Remains for Deal
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The six-party talks on the Korean nuclear issue entered the fourth day on Sunday, with parties remaining divided on compensation measures for North Korea.

"North Korea demanded too much on the compensation issue. It will be difficult to reach an agreement if it does not reconsider its demand," said Japanese negotiator Kenichiro Sasae on Sunday morning.

The current situation remains severe, and it is "not optimistic " whether an agreement will be reached, Sasae said.

Reports said the sticking point to ink a deal centers on the volume and timing about the energy aid to North Korea.

"There is definitely one issue preventing us from sealing the deal right now," said chief US negotiator Christopher Hill Saturday.

Envoys from host China, North Korea, the United States, South Korea, Japan and Russia reconvened the talks on Thursday in Beijing in the wake of a 48-day recess.

But the talks got blocked by the energy aid to North Korea after the negotiators held consultations on a Chinese draft, which involves the moves North Korea will take to abandon its nuclear program in return for economic aid and security guarantee.

The draft reportedly proposes halting within two months work at nuclear sites in North Korea, including the Yongbyon reactor, and supplying Pyongyang with alternative energy sources.

"It seems the chances to reach a joint statement are slim," said Russian representative Alexander Losyukov.

"If a joint statement can not be finally reached, there will be a chairman's statement," said Losyukov. "But that doesn't mean a failure."

Losyukov said Saturday morning that the nuclear negotiations will end with a two-page joint statement.

Chief South Korean negotiator Chun Yung Woo said it's "unreasonable" to expect breakthrough on Sunday as the consultations will continue.

The current problem is not about the "scale" of the economic aid to be given to North Korea, but about what actions the North Korea will take to denuclearize, said Chun.

However, Hill urged the talks to pick up pace and end on Sunday.

"It's time to wrap up," said Hill when he left for talks Sunday morning.

Hill declined to say what the sticking point exactly is, but implied some issues should be discussed within working groups. "The issue of this kind is more appropriate for experts to deal with...... that's why we have so many working groups," Hill said.

Hill visited National Art Museum of China at his leisure Sunday afternoon, where an American exhibition is on display, said sources with the US embassy in China.

(Xinhua News Agency February 11, 2007)

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