U.S Still Wants U.N. to Condemn North Korea's Nuclear Program

The United States still wants the U.N. Security Council (search) to condemn North Korea's (search) nuclear program despite the communist country's efforts to persuade other nations not to take sides on the issue.

U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte (search) said Friday the Bush administration has no plans to withdraw a draft statement condemning North Korea's nuclear program and demanding its immediate destruction.

"It's still on the table," Negroponte said.

North Korea sent letters to members of the 15-nation Security Council urging them to remain neutral concerning its nuclear program. The Pyongyang (search) government followed up that letter with visits to individual diplomats.

"The North Koreans, I think, have visited all members of the council," Mexico's U.N. Ambassador Adolfo Aguilar Zinser said. "The message is that they expect that the council will not take actions which will imperil the possibility of a negotiated agreement on the matter."

The two Koreas failed to agree Saturday on a format for talks on resolving the nuclear dispute. Without offering specifics, negotiators said they would pursue a peaceful end to the 9-month-old crisis.

After an overnight meeting at a Seoul hotel, South Korean negotiators settled for a vaguely worded statement while agreeing to maintain economic and other contacts with the North.

North Korea maintained its position that it wants one-on-one talks with the United States.

The nuclear dispute flared in October when U.S. officials said North Korea admitted it had a clandestine nuclear program in violation of a 1994 agreement.

The United States and its allies suspended fuel shipments promised under the 1994 deal, and North Korea retaliated by expelling U.N. monitors, restarting facilities capable of making fuel for nuclear bombs and withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

North Korea has warned that any Security Council action would undermine attempts to reach a negotiated solution to the standoff. It repeatedly has said it would consider U.N. sanctions a declaration of war.

China, which has close ties to North Korea, has opposed any council action, saying the dispute should be resolved between Washington and Pyongyang.

North Korea peppered its five-page letter, sent June 27, with fiery language accusing the United States of threatening it and violating international treaties. The ambassador asked the Security Council not to be influenced by the American position.

The United States, which has included North Korea in an "axis of evil" with Iran and Saddam Hussein's Iraq, said it wants a strong statement from the Security Council expressing concern about Pyongyang's nuclear program.