U.S. Nearing Deal on Removing North Korea From Terrorism List

The Bush administration is close to announcing plans to remove North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, senior U.S. diplomats say — but first is trying build consensus among other countries at the negotiating table.

The State Department announced Friday that there has been no decision yet on whether to remove North Korea from the U.S. government's list, despite reports to the contrary, spokesman Sean McCormack said.

"This has been about getting the details right on a verification regime that we hope will move this process forward," he said at a State Department briefing. "I won't put a timeline on these efforts."

Even so, senior U.S. diplomats told FOX News on Friday that the State Department was working toward an announcement, possibly Saturday. It was the latest in a series of conflicting reports out of Washington in the past couple days.

The administration is still consulting with China, South Korea, Russia and particularly Japan on the move, which is meant to revive talks on nuclear disarmament, officials said.

"We're continuing to work with our six-party partners, but I don't expect anything else on that today," White House press secretary Dana Perino said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed the matter with the foreign ministers of China, South Korea and Japan on Friday and will raise it with her Russian counterpart in the coming days, the State Department said. Those four countries, along with the United States and North Korea, make up the group working on getting Pyongyang to give up nuclear weapons.

"The point where we're at now is making sure everybody agrees," McCormack told reporters.

According to a U.S. official, Rice and lead negotiator Christopher Hill presented the deal Wednesday to the president, who rejected it outright.

But sources tell FOX News the deal is the outcome of a recent visit by Hill to North Korea. A meeting was held Friday at the National Security Council to hear about the deal arranged by Hill.

Removing North Korea from the terror list would be a major step in mending relations between the reclusive communist nation and the United States, though it also would come amid concerns about North Korea's weapons program.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has said in recent days North Korea appeared to have been powering up its nuclear program and testing missiles. American satellite images confirmed reports of short-range missile testing recently, but the U.S. said those moves would not mean the death of international efforts to persuade North Korea to recommit to an agreement that offers it diplomatic and economic concessions in exchange for nuclear disarmament.

Japanese media say, according to their Japanese government sources, a de-listing will not occur Friday. Japan is a piece of the six-party talks with North Korea, and wants issues of their kidnapped nationals dealt with before North Korea is de-listed.

Some officials in Washington have criticized the idea of de-listing North Korea, even labeling the agreement a "get out of jail free card," as key issues, including reported assistance by North Korea to Syria in establishing a nuclear weapons program, are left unaddressed.

"I do not believe the President would agree to gut verification to continue this process," said Paula DeSutter, Assistant Secretary of State for Verification, Compliance, and Implementation.

DeSutter told FOX News that she was disappointed that the Verification bureau has not been included in any meetings on what Ambassador Hill brought from Pyongyang and not included in any meetings at the NSC.

FOX News' Jennifer Griffin, Justin Fishel, Nina Donaghy and James Rosen and the Associated Press contributed to this report.