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N Korea parliament to meet amid nuclear crisis

Written by: Staff

Seoul, Mar 22: North Korea's parliament will meet next month, Pyongyang said today (Mar 22,2006), offering a glimpse into the policy priorities of the secretive state amid a stand-off with regional powers over its nuclear arms programme.

Last year's meeting of the Supreme People's Assembly focused on ways to produce more food in a country that battles chronic shortages and measures to boost the economy as well as the military.

This year's meeting will start on April 11, the official KCNA news agency said in a two-sentence report.

Among the areas of interest for foreign experts and officials will be the importance given to stalled talks on ending the country's nuclear programmes, measures to revitalise its anaemic economy and any talk of succession to leader Kim Jong-il.

Nuclear talks among the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States have stalled over a US crackdown on firms Washington suspects of aiding North Korea in illicit activities such as counterfeiting.

North Korea has said it would be unthinkable for it to return to the talks, which were last held in November, while the United States is trying to topple its leaders through economic pressure.

The main focus of the parliament meeting is usually budgetary matters, and measures brought before it are typically approved by a unanimous vote and to the enthusiastic applause of the members.

An item of intrigue last year was Kim's appearance at the meeting, cutting a distant figure at a session that made clear the economy was in bad shape and the focus was on the military despite efforts to feed the people.

That meeting of the Supreme People's Assembly was delayed for a month. There was speculation that an outbreak of bird flu in the capital, Pyongyang, led to the delay.


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