G8 sends strong message on North Korea, Zimbabwe

June 28th, 2008 - 8:31 am ICT by IANS  

Kyoto (Japan), June 28 (DPA) Strong criticism of Zimbabwe’s “sham” elections and hopes for progress on North Korea’s denuclearization set the tone Friday at the final day of the Kyoto meeting of the foreign ministers of the world’s seven leading economies and Russia. Heated debates among the Group of Eight (G8) foreign ministers preceded an unplanned statement on the Zimbabwe presidential election run-off, diplomats said.

The strongly-worded statement deplored the systematic violence, obstruction and intimidation used by Zimbabwean authorities against the country’s opposition, making free and fair elections impossible.

“We will not accept the legitimacy of any government that does not reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people,” the foreign ministers said.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who slammed the poll as a “sham,” announced “further steps” on Zimbabwe had to be discussed at the UN Security Council. The council will meet to deliberate on possible sanctions Monday.

G8 officials across the board said verification of North Korea’s declaration of nuclear activities, which was belatedly handed over to China Thursday, was key to ending the country’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

“We agreed on the need to conduct thorough verification of North Korea’s nuclear declaration,” Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura, the meeting’s chair, said.

Japan, China, South Korea, Russia, the United States and North Korea needed to press ahead with the six-party talks, which had reached a “critical stage,” he said.

“We expect North Korea to cooperate,” Rice said, adding that there was still a long way to go.

The US still had some open questions regarding uranium enrichment and proliferation activities by the communist state, even as it prepared to remove Pyongyang from a terrorism blacklist in the next 45 days.

“We know that North Korea has a record of not always living up to its obligations, so we are going to monitor very carefully,” Rice said, waring of further consequences should Pyongyang not meet its obligations.

A negotiated solution for North Korea could serve as an example for similar cases, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said, referring to ongoing talks with Iran, the international community’s other major proliferation headache.

G8 host Japan received reassurance from the other members that its concerns on the resolution of questions regarding the abduction of Japanese nationals by North Korea in the 1970s and ’80s were were taken on board.

“The abduction issue is not just an issue for Japan, but also for the United States,” Rice said. “We expect this issue to be resolved positively.”

In a bilateral meeting Koumura urged Rice to keep up pressure on North Korea to bow to Japan’s requests to provide further information on its citizens.

Tokyo had in the past demanded to make North Korea’s removal from a US terrorism blacklist dependent on clarification of abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea.

Washington’s decision to move ahead with the de-listing of North Korea had raised hackles in Tokyo, with some fearing Japan lost important leverage in the abduction issue.

While it was Japan’s responsibility to seek a solution, it “highly appreciated” support from the US to nudge North Korea in the right direction, a senior foreign ministry official said, reaffirming bilateral harmony.

North Korea had already tried before to drive a wedge between the United States and Japan, he added.

Japan’s ambitious efforts to increase international aid for Afghanistan, as well as discussions on Sudan, Myanmar and the Middle East, were pushed out of the limelight during the two-day meeting. dpa im jh ms

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