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UN Council to discuss N. Korea nuclear sanctions Tuesday

UNITED NATIONS, March 5 (BSS/AFP) - The UN Security Council will meet Tuesday to discuss new sanctions the United States and its allies want to impose on North Korea for its nuclear weapon test last month, diplomats said.

The meeting was called by the Security Council presidency amid signs that the United States and China are close to an accord on new action against the isolated North over its February 12 atomic blast, diplomats added.

"There won't be a vote on Tuesday, but it could come soon," a UN diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said earlier Monday that the United States has not yet circulated a draft resolution on North Korea but it was expected soon.

US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, has been in talks with her Chinese counterpart, Li Baodong, on sanctions since North Korea staged its third nuclear test to near universal condemnation.

Within hours of the blast, all 15 council members backed a statement which said the North was in "grave violation" of existing UN resolutions and saying they would go ahead with an earlier threat to take "significant action" against the North.

China, ever fearful of threats to stability on its frontier, has been reluctant to agree to tough new action, diplomats said. "There have been tough talks between the United States and China," the UN envoy said.

North Korea said its third nuclear test in seven years was a riposte to "US hostility" shown in the widening of existing UN sanctions following its rocket launch in December last year.

The North says its long-range missile can now reach US territory. It has angrily warned that it will not be bound by UN resolutions in what diplomats have said is a strong indication that a new nuclear test or rocket launch could be tried.