Friday, February 25, 2005

North Korea praises partner Iran as U.S. frets

North Korea and Iran are basking in praise of each other's battle against imperialism, the North's official news agency reported on Friday, in an apparent jab at Washington, which is fretting about the two states' nuclear programmes.

"The people of the DPRK (North Korea) and Iran have established friendly and cooperative ties, and supported, and closely cooperate with each other on the road of the struggle for independence against imperialism," KCNA reported a top North Korean official saying at a reception with Iran's ambassador to the reclusive state.

The statement follows in a series of comments on the warm ties between the two countries that have been reported in North Korean media since Feb. 10, when Pyongyang officially announced for the first time it had nuclear weapons.

Analysts have said North Korea made its nuclear boast in order to raise the stakes in diplomatic efforts to end its atomic ambitions, saying Pyongyang was also trying to press for an advantage while Washington's attention was focused on Iran's nuclear programmes.

The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush now faces two nations he once named as part of an "axis of evil" being openly defiant about their nuclear programmes -- North Korea and Iran.

He went to war with Iraq, the third of his "axis" nations.