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Carter Says North Korea Ready For Talks

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter (right) at Pyongyang airport
Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter says North Korean leader Kim Jong-il was willing to hold talks without preconditions with South Korea and the United States on "any" issue.

Carter, who visited North Korea with three former European leaders, said today they did not meet personally with Kim, but received a note from him.

Carter was speaking at a press conference in South Korea where his group, known as The Elders, arrived today after their three-day visit to the communist North.

Carter is being accompanied on his visit by former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, Norwegian ex-prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, and former Irish president Mary Robinson.

Their visit to Pyongyang was intended to ease tensions between North and South Korea, push for nuclear disarmament, and to also discuss food shortages in the North.

compiled from agency reports