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G8 foreign ministers urge Iran, N. Korea to halt nuclear programs

POTSDAM, May 30 (RIA Novosti) - Foreign ministers of the Group of Eight most industrialized nations passed two separate statements on Iran and North Korea Wednesday following their informal meeting in Potsdam, Germany.

The U.S. has included Iran along with North Korea in President George W. Bush's "axis of evil," with Tehran consistently defying international calls to suspend uranium enrichment, which would bring it closer to acquiring a nuclear weapon, while Pyongyang tested a nuclear device in October 2006.

In a statement on Iran, the foreign ministers of the G8 member states, which include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, called on the Islamic country to oblige by UN Security Council resolutions and halt uranium enrichment.

Iran failed to comply with a 60-day deadline to stop uranium enrichment, which was imposed by the UN Security Council and expired May 23. Moreover, the Islamic country has increased uranium enrichment, saying its nuclear program is aimed exclusively at power generation.

Secretary General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohamed ElBaradei said last week it was too late to force Tehran to abandon its uranium enrichment plans and proposed introducing inspection measures instead to prevent a further expansion of the Iranian nuclear program.

In a separate statement, the ministers called on North Korea to fully implement obligations the country assumed under the non-proliferation agreement and to close all programs on the development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

North Korea agreed to stop its nuclear reactor and give International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors access to the country in a six-party agreement February 13 after boycotting disarmament talks with China, the U.S., South Korea, Russia and Japan for more than a year.

It has pledged that it will fulfill its February commitments with the five countries involved in a protracted nuclear dispute as soon as it receives funds frozen in a Macao bank.

North Korea's $25 million deposited in Banco Delta Asia was unfrozen in March in an attempt to win Pyongyang's promise to close its nuclear reactor. But the fund transfer has been stalled, and in response the Communist regime has delayed shutting down its Yongbyon reactor, which was expected in April.

The impoverished state has been cut off from global financial markets for several years and has used cash or complicated barter schemes to pay for supplies and services from other countries.

The North Korean BDA accounts were frozen in October 2005 at the request of the United States, which accused the regime of counterfeiting and money laundering. Washington also blacklisted the Macao bank earlier this year, making other banks wary of handling Korean funds and dealing with the BDA.

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