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UN, N. Korea negotiating aid plan

GENEVA -- Several UN agencies are in talks with North Korea on how to overcome differences over emergency food aid after Pyongyang demanded that all such help be terminated and changed into development assistance, UN officials said yesterday.

North Korea's deputy foreign minister, Choe Su Hon, said Thursday that his government had informed the United Nations it wants all emergency humanitarian assistance from international organizations to stop by the end of the year, partly because of what it called political interference from the United States.

''This is a very sensitive issue," said Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. ''There are discussions with the North Korean government at the moment . . . in order to continue the humanitarian programs."

The UN World Food Program said it is negotiating with North Korea to find ways to change the aid into development programs.

But the Rome-based organization said the North Korean government had not asked it to leave the country.

''We have not been asked to terminate our assistance . . . the government wants us to stay in place and the WFP wants to stay," spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume said.

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