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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Suspends Korea Sanctions Threat

WASHINGTON -- A "very happy" President Bill Clinton is suspending a threat of sanctions and preparing to offer North Korea a way out of its isolation in return for its pledge to freeze its nuclear program. Clinton on Wednesday called North Korea's decision to halt the nuclear program a "very important step forward" toward defusing a tense, months-long dispute with the communist regime. In return, Clinton said the United States would suspend its campaign at the United Nations to punish Pyongyang with economic sanctions and would resume high-level talks with North Korea next month in Geneva. Russia, however, cast doubt on the likely success of resumed high-level talks between Pyongyang and Washington. "Unfortunately, past experience of bilateral contacts with North Korea hardly inspires much hope," Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Panov told a news briefing Thursday. "Their talks with the United States were disrupted three times this year, and each time tensions increased." If there is another failure, Panov said Russia's long-standing proposal for an international conference on the Korean problem should be considered as a positive alternative to sanctions. In Washington, Clinton appeared upbeat at the day's developments during a nationally televised news conference. "We have the basis to go forward and I'm very happy about it," he said. "The world will be the winner if we can resolve this but we've not done it yet." Later, a senior administration official voiced caution about the North Koreans' erratic responses over time. "It would be a mistake ... to allow ourselves to become wildly optimistic or wildly pessimistic," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "What matters here is what they say and what they do. ... What matters is what we can accomplish." Senate Republican leader Bob Dole criticized the White House for its embrace of the Pyongyang declaration of a freeze, "with no evidence that North Korean words mean any more today than they have for four decades." In the past, North Korea has played a cat-and-mouse game with the International Atomic Energy Agency, admitting inspectors but refusing to let them conduct a comprehensive search. Specifically, fuel rods removed from an experimental reactor were kept from the inspectors and they also were denied access to waste sites.