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U.S. offers deal if N. Korea halts nuclear program

Proposal gives 'provisional' security pledge, energy aid in exchange


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BEIJING, China (CNN) -- The United States has proposed that North Korea end its nuclear program and allow international monitors to return in exchange for energy aid and a provisional U.S. security guarantee, senior American officials said Wednesday.

The offer appeared to be an effort to break a long-standing deadlock over North Korea's nuclear program at six-nation talks in Beijing.

Under the plan, U.S. officials said, North Korea would provide a full declaration of its nuclear activities and stop all of them; secure any fissile material that could be used to produce a nuclear bomb; disable any dangerous materials, and allow inspectors to return.

In exchange, the other countries in the talks -- China, South Korea, Japan and Russia -- would provide Pyongyang with badly needed heavy fuel oil and the United States would offer a "provisional" guarantee not to attack North Korea, the officials said.

In Washington, National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack said the proposal was "not a freeze," but would be a step toward the dismantling of North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

"These steps would be provisional or temporary in nature, and would yield lasting benefits to North Korea after dismantlements have been completed," McCormack said.

U.S. officials in Beijing, where the talks were being held, said the seven-page U.S. proposal leaves out language demanding that North Korea "completely, verifiably and irreversibly dismantle" its nuclear weapons program.

"It seems to inflame sensibilities, so we don't need to use it," one senior American official said. The official said that phrase was "not the only way of describing the end of the process."

There was no immediate response to the proposal from North Korea, which has said it won't give up its nuclear program unless the United States pledges not to attack. U.S. officials said they want North Korean officials to carefully study the plan before reacting.

The Bush administration has insisted that it won't engage in bilateral talks with Pyongyang, which is believed to have a small number of nuclear weapons. But Wednesday's offer appeared to be a significant departure from the administration's stance.

The nature of the proposal's security guarantee was not spelled out.

The United States also would take steps to address North Korean concerns about continued U.S. economic sanctions and its presence on the U.S. list of states that sponsor terrorism, the officials said.

McCormack said Washington would provide written security assurances to North Korea during a provisional period as Pyongyang took steps to dismantle its nuclear program.

"The process involves a short preparatory period for dismantlement and removal which will include the disablement of all weapons, weapons components and key centrifuge parts," he said. "The permanent and verifiable dismantlement and removal of North Korea nuclear programs will follow this brief period. At the same time, the parties would take steps to ease the political and economic isolation of North Korea."

A senior administration official said the hope is North Korea would follow "the Libya model," in which dismantlement measures came quickly and the United States responded in good faith.

"We don't expect an agreement on the proposal within the next 24 to 48 hours," a senior administration official said. "We expect people will take this back to their capitals, and we'll be one step closer to getting this done."

CNN's Mike Chinoy and Suzanne Malveaux contributed to this report


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