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Will North Korea cut a nuclear deal before Obama arrives?

As Beijing talks stall, analysts say North Korea may be waiting for a gesture from Barack Obama once he assumes the presidency.

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US nuclear envoy Christopher Hill this week is making what may be the final effort of his search for a lasting deal on North Korea's nuclear program in the latest round of six-party talks in Beijing.

No one, including Mr. Hill, predicts success as he attempts to get North Korea to agree in writing to what North Korean diplomats have said they will never do: permit inspectors to take material from the North's nuclear site at Yongbyon for scrutiny outside the country.

Hill, entering the talks on Monday, acknowledged negotiations will be "difficult" but insisted, "We all know what we're supposed to get accomplished."

North Korea's chief envoy Kim Kye- gwan may not share the same understanding on "sampling."

That word has come up repeatedly of late with Hill saying North Korea verbally agreed in October to allow sampling before President Bush ordered removal of North Korea from the US list of nations sponsoring terrorism.

Hill sought an understanding with Mr. Kim in Singapore last weekend, but Kim said, "we need more discussions."

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