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Carter to travel with three heads of state to N.K.: source

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter will be accompanied by as many as three former heads of state on his visit to North Korea slated for April 26-28, a diplomatic source here said Sunday.

Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari will join Carter’s delegation to North Korea, said the source, noting that the group has already been known to include former Irish President Mary Robinson and former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland.

Ahtisaari, a 2008 Nobel Peace Prize winner, has striven to resolve diplomatic stalemates worldwide over the past 30 years.

North Korea, which is suffering from severe famine due to floods and freezing weather, has invited Carter to visit Pyongyang in the apparent hope that he will play the middleman in mending ties between the sides.

Carter, who met in 1994 with then-North Korean leader Kim Il-sung in Pyongyang and brokered a bilateral deal, again visited the communist country last August to bring back an American man detained for illegal entry.

During his latest visit to Pyongyang, Carter failed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

According to the source, traveling with three other former heads of state has heightened the possibility of Carter meeting with the reclusive North Korean leader.

Following his trip to the North, Carter is scheduled to arrive in Seoul on April 29 to brief South Korean officials on the result of his Pyongyang visit, the source added.

The U.S. State Department has described Carter’s upcoming trip as “strictly private,” with an official saying, “Carter’s coming visit will provide a chance to see if there is a change in North Korea’s behavior and also gauge the possibility of a breakthrough in the deadlock over the talks.”

Carter said recently he would “try to induce the North Koreans to give up their nuclear weapons,” adding, “What we want is a peace treaty and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and to find out about how we can help with the humanitarian plight of the people who are starving to death.”

(Yonhap News)
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