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Experts From 15 Security Council Nations to Study North Korea Nuclear Dispute

The U.N. Security Council discussed North Korea's nuclear weapons program and its rejection of an anti-nuclear treaty Wednesday, before asking specialists from its member states to study the issue.

German Ambassador Gunter Pleuger said the Security Council will await the recommendations of experts before taking any action.

"As it is an important and very complicated issue, the council wanted to refer this to" experts, said Pleuger, whose country holds the council presidency this month.

The United States said last week it would not press for punishing U.N. sanctions against North Korea now, but Pyongyang said it didn't trust Washington and demanded that the council blame the U.S. government for the nuclear crisis.

North Korea has warned that sanctions would be tantamount to "a declaration of war."

The International Atomic Energy Agency referred the issue to the council in a resolution, which accused the communist state of "noncompliance" in its nuclear safeguards agreement with the IAEA.

North Korea is sticking to its demand for direct dialogue with the United States on the nuclear impasse. China, its close ally, said it was "working very hard on the two parties" to resolve the issue.

"We wish to see the parties meet," said China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Yingfan.

U.S. representatives at Wednesday's council meeting said the IAEA's decision to refer North Korea's noncompliance to the council emphasized the international, rather than bilateral, nature of the issue.

"We look forward to working with our colleagues on the council on finding a way to achieve a verifiable and irreversible dismantling of North Korea's nuclear program," deputy U.S. ambassador James Cunningham said. "This kind of violation is something that we should all be concerned about."

The nuclear standoff began in October, when U.S. officials said North Korea had admitted having a covert nuclear program -- which Pyongyang calls a U.S. "rumor." Washington and its allies suspended fuel shipments, and the North retaliated by expelling U.N. monitors, taking steps to restart frozen nuclear facilities and withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

North Korea says it is reactivating its facilities to generate badly needed electricity, but U.S. officials say the equipment could be used to produce atomic bombs.

North Korea's recent moves to restart its nuclear facilities have been widely viewed as attempts to pressure Washington into direct negotiations on a nonaggression pact.