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UN draft condemns N Korea over ship

The US has said that China and other key nations had agreed to condemn the attack on a South Korean warship and express "deep concern" over findings that North Korea was to blame.

But their proposed statement, circulated to the full 15-member United Nations Security Council for approval, did not directly accuse Pyongyang.

Their agreed statement calls for "appropriate and peaceful measures to be taken against those responsible" for the sinking of the 1,200-ton Cheonan on March 26, killing 46 South Korean sailors.

It does not identify who is responsible, and "takes note" of North Korea's response "that it had nothing to do with the incident", according to the text obtained by The Associated Press.

North Korea has called for a new joint investigation by both Koreas "to verify objectively the truth of the incident" and has warned that its military forces will respond if the council questions or condemns the country over the sinking.

The draft statement "underscores the importance" of preventing further attacks or hostilities against South Korea or in the region, and stresses "the importance of maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in north-east Asia as a whole".

The UN Security Council scheduled a meeting for Friday and diplomats said if all council members approved the statement it would be read at an open meeting by the council president.

Presidential statements must be approved by the full council. While they do not have the clout of resolutions, they do become part of the security council's record.

Diplomats said China, the North's closest ally and a veto-wielding council member, opposed a third round of sanctions against Pyongyang and direct condemnation of North Korea for the incident while South Korea wanted the council to condemn the North.

US ambassador Susan Rice, who introduced the draft statement at the closed council meeting, said it was agreed to by the five permanent council members - the US, Russia, China, Britain and France - as well as Japan and South Korea.

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