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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Local Banks Will Take Macau Cash

Russia said Wednesday it was poised to transfer North Korean funds frozen at a Macau bank, raising prospects for an end to the deadlock that has stalled a nuclear disarmament deal for weeks.

Russia has said it was ready to give the green light to one of its banks to transfer the $25 million stuck in Banko Delta Asia provided Washington gave written guarantees it would not fall under U.S. sanctions against Pyongyang.

"In principle, we are ready," Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov said. "I do not know when this will happen, but we are talking days."

A Finance Ministry source told Itar-Tass that the "appropriate operation was being prepared."

Pyongyang has refused to honor a February deal to begin shutting its Yongbyon nuclear reactor and source of material for atomic bombs until its funds in the BDA is released through normal banking channels.

Losyukov said the Finance Ministry was now negotiating written guarantees with Washington. He said it was too soon to identify the Russian bank involved in the transfer.

The funds were blocked after the United States blacklisted BDA, accusing it of laundering illicit funds for North Korea.

Because of the stigma attached to holding North Korean assets, banks have balked at acting as a conduit for the money to be returned to Pyongyang.

South Korea's foreign minister said earlier Wednesday that negotiations to transfer the North Korean funds were in their final stages, and Yonhap news agency quoted an official in Seoul as saying the deal could be completed by the end of the week.