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Carter secures release of American in North Korea

Reuters

Former US president Jimmy Carter left North Korea on Friday, having secured the release of an American citizen detained there and a commitment from Pyongyang to resume nuclear disarmament talks.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il granted amnesty to US national Aijalon Mahli Gomes, who was jailed for illegally entering North Korea from China, for "humanitarian purposes", according to a statement by the Carter Center.

Carter and Gomes boarded a plane for Boston, where Gomes will rejoin his family.

"The measure taken by [North Korea] to set free the illegal entrant is a manifestation of its humanitarianism and peace-loving policy," the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

The North's Deputy Prime Minister Kim Yong-nam also told Carter of "the Republic's commitment to denuclearise the Korean peninsula and resume the six-party talks," KCNA reported.

North Korea walked out on the nuclear talks, also involving South Korea, the United States, China, Russia and Japan, in April 2009 in protest at UN condemnation of an apparent missile test disguised as a space rocket launch.

The US State Department welcomed Gomes' release, but stressed that Carter's visit had been a "private, humanitarian and unofficial mission" undertaken at North Korea's invitation.

Shortly after Gomes was reported freed, the State Department issued a travel warning to US citizens urging them to avoid entering North Korea without "explicit official permission".

Gomes' reasons for travelling to North Korea are still unclear. A devout Christian who had protested against human rights abuses in the North, he is believed to have undertaken the trip as a one-man peace mission.

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