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Evangelist Billy Graham meets North Korean President

TOKYO -- Evangelist Billy Graham met Saturday with North Korean President Kim Il Sung and conveyed a verbal message from U.S. President Bill Clinton, the official (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

A KCNA dispatch monitored in Tokyo said Kim conversed with his guests 'in a cordial and friendly atmosphere' without disclosing the contents of the message.

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Graham, who arrived in Pyongyang Thursday, said his visit will contribute to a new atmosphere of mutual respect, goodwill and understanding between the United States and North Korea, according to KCNA

It also quoted Graham as saying on his arrival, 'I am aware that I come at a particularly complex time in our relationship.'

The United States has indicated it will press the U.N. to impose sanctions on the communist country if Pyongyang fails to agree to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections of its nuclear facilities.

Washington believes North Korea is secretly building nuclear weapons, a contention Pyongyang has steadfastly denied.

Last Thursday, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency said Graham would convey a message from Clinton to Kim and quoted a Seoul government source as saying the message called on Pyongyang to resolve the nuclear impasse at an early date.

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The United States has threatened to push ahead with international economic sanctions if North Korea fails to accept full inspections by the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency by Feb. 21, the date of an IAEA Board of Governors meeting in Vienna.

U.S. plans to deploy Patriot missiles in South Korea to defend against possible missile attacks by North Korea have intensified strains.

Graham visited China, South Korea and Japan prior to his North Korean trip.

'Christians often serve as a bridge between different societies,' Graham said in Pyongyang. 'That bridge brought me here two years ago, and I believe as a result of that visit the bridge between us is stronger now than it was then'

Concluding his North Korean visit, Graham visited Kim Il Sung University and met with students and teachers.NEWLN: ry

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