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Russia says Iraq war pushing NK to get N-weapon

MOSCOW, April 1 (Reuters) - A senior Russian official warned the United States on Tuesday that the Iraq war was likely to push North Korea towards building a nuclear weapon and urged it to open talks with the isolated Stalinist state.

Alexander Losyukov, a Russian deputy foreign minister involved in the international row over Pyongyang's nuclear programme, told Interfax news agency the North Koreans felt themselves under threat from Washington and drew a parallel with the Iraq crisis.he Iraq situation, unfortunately, is prompting the North Koreans to strengthen their defences," he said.

Asked if the Iraq war could push Pyongyang to build a nuclear weapon, he said: "Yes, obviously. And the lack of any negotiation process (with the United States) hugely increases that danger."

Losyukov, repeating a call he made after meeting a high-level South Korean envoy in Moscow on Monday, said the only way out of the impasse was through negotiation, including direct talks between Pyongyang and Washington.

"No contacts can replace direct dialogue between North Korea and the United States. There is a defined set of questions that only these two sides can solve," he said.

North Korea has vowed to resist all international demands on it to allow nuclear inspections or to disarm, saying Iraq had made this mistake and was now paying the price.

The North Korean state-run news agency said on Tuesday that overflights by U.S. spy planes and naval exercises off the Korean coast "clearly prove that the U.S. is going to invade the DPRK (North Korea) at the end of the Iraqi war."

Pyongyang insists any nuclear programme it may have would be purely defensive in face of what it perceives as an American military threat to its existence.

It insists on direct bilateral negotiations with the United States with the aim of signing a non-aggression pact that would guarantee North Korea's survival as a state.

But U.S. policy is to have the crisis discussed in a multilateral forum to include North Korea's Asian neighbours, including South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.

Moscow, Pyongyang's key sponsor during the Cold War, has worked to rebuild ties with North Korea after a decade-long freeze that followed the break-up of the Soviet Union. It now has good relations with both countries on the Korean peninsula.

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