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#4 - JRL 7218
Russia says ready to help in North Korea crisis
June 10, 2003

HELSINKI, Finland (Reuters) - Russia said Tuesday it was willing to help defuse the standoff between the United States and North Korea over the communist state's nuclear ambitions.

On Monday, North Korea made its most explicit acknowledgment yet it was seeking nuclear weapons. Washington said it would continue to seek a diplomatic solution through multilateral talks.

"If these parties deem it necessary that Russia should play a more active part in this dialogue, we will be ready," Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told a news conference through a translator.

Ivanov is in Finland for a two-day meeting of Baltic foreign ministers and other officials in the western city of Pori.

Pyongyang, which wants direct bilateral talks with Washington, said Monday it wanted nuclear weapons so it could cut its huge conventional forces and divert funds into an economy foreign analysts say is close to collapse.

Russia, North Korea's key sponsor during most of the Cold War, has in recent years revived links that were allowed to lapse after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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