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Russia will complete later in January its fuel shipments to North
Russia will complete later in January its fuel shipments to North Korea under international agreements, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday.

Russia is to supply a total of 200,000 metric tons of fuel to North Korea as part of a denuclearization deal. Moscow hopes that in exchange for heating oil deliveries Pyongyang will complete the phasing out of its Yongbyon nuclear complex.

"As for the Korean peninsula's nuclear problem, the disablement of nuclear facilities is underway. The majority of participants in the six-nation talks, including Russia, are also providing compensatory supplies. We will complete our supplies later this month. We will honor our commitments," Lavrov said.

Currently, the main stumbling block in the negotiations, which have been ongoing since 2003, is the U.S. demand for nuclear inspectors to be able to take samples from North Korean facilities out of the country for analysis.

The negotiations have been complicated by North Korea's refusal to acknowledge Japan as a participant over Tokyo's failure to meet its obligations under a 2007 six-party agreement to provide fuel aid to Pyongyang in exchange for the dismantling of North Korean nuclear facilities and disclosure of all information on past nuclear activities.

North Korea in an official statement pledged on Tuesday to discontinue its nuclear ambitions only if the United States stopped its threatening and "unfriendly" policies towards the communist nation.

According to an unnamed North Korean diplomat, the statement reflects the country's stance on its nuclear disarmament and was made ahead of the upcoming presidential inauguration of Barack Obama on January 20.

In 2008, the U.S. removed North Korea from the blacklist of countries supporting international terrorism after Pyongyang gave assurances on verification measures.

Last year, the communist country announced it had 14,000 unspent fuel rods, which Seoul has estimated amount to some 100 tons of uranium. South Korea has 20 nuclear reactors providing the country with 40% of its energy needs and plans to increase its nuclear facilities in the future.

Relations between Seoul and the communist north have deteriorated since South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took office in February 2008, and amid claims that North Korea's leader Kim Jong-il has been incapacitated following a stroke in August.

Relations between the two sides were dealt a further blow last month, when the North tightened controls on the heavily fortified border, and expelled some of the South Koreans working at the Kaesong industrial park. The park is located close to the border.

Each of the five countries involved in the talks, which include the two Koreas, the U.S., Japan, Russia and China, agreed in 2007 to give the North 200,000 metric tons of fuel oil as an incentive for North Korea's nuclear decommissioning and the disclosure of all information on past nuclear activities. The move followed a nuclear test blast conducted by the communist state in October 2006.


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