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US Sees Few Options Left In Its N. Korea Diplomacy

UNITED States officials are concerned over the shortage of options available if the Clinton administration concludes that North Korea, as is suspected, is embarked on a nuclear weapons program. The preferred US option is to persuade the United Nations Security Council to impose economic sanctions.

The latest setback occurred with North Korea's refusal to grant inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to a laboratory suspected of being used to extract bomb-grade plutonium. The IAEA will render a final determination of the inspection process Monday.

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It was on that day that the administration had proposed resuming high-level talks with North Korea in Geneva. State Department spokesman Mike McCurry said it was doubtful the US-North Korean talks could begin Monday because the IAEA evaluation won't be known until then.

Three Asian countries with the largest stake in the issue - China, Japan, and South Korea - all have indicated varying degrees of resistance to economic sanctions, US officials said Wednesday. All prefer to deal with North Korea diplomatically, but the United States is concerned that the time for diplomacy may be running out.

CIA Director James Woolsey, speaking on NBC, called North Korea ``a key part of this sort of devil's brew of three or four countries - together with Iran, Iraq, and Libya - that are engaged directly and indirectly in terrorism and proliferating of weapons of mass destruction.'' Call for Whitewater hearings

REP. Dan Rostenkowski, who relied on President Clinton's help in winning a key Democratic primary race in Illinois this week, is the second top House committee chairman to declare that Whitewater hearings may be necessary.

``I think the congressional hearings are going to be inevitable,'' the House Ways and Means chairman said, even though ``the American people are tired of all this.''

House Speaker Thomas Foley (D) has refused to budge from his opposition to hearings, saying that special counsel Robert Fiske Jr. expressed concern that any hearings could become ``a method of backing into the fundamental questions involved in Whitewater issues in Arkansas.''

On Tuesday, Rep. Lee Hamilton (D) of Indiana said hearings might be the best way to get the facts out ``quickly and completely.'' Known for his bipartisanship, Hamilton is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

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Meanwhile, former Sen. Barry Goldwater (R) said Wednesday that Washington should kill the clamor over Whitewater and let President Clinton do his job.

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