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NY Philharmonic may play in North Korea

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NY Philharmonic may play in North Korea
10/11/2007, 9:40 a.m. ET
The Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) — The New York Philharmonic could perform in North Korea next year, the orchestra´s president said Thursday after a trip to the reclusive communist nation.

"I think it looks good. There´s no reason why it would not work, but we have to weigh all the different consequences," Zarin Mehta said in Beijing after returning from the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.

Mehta and public relations director Eric Latzky went to North Korea on Saturday to explore venues and other arrangements for a potential concert in Pyongyang. They were accompanied by a U.S. State Department official.

"We were making inquiries and exploring, and then we will make a decision in the next few weeks," Mehta told reporters.

Mehta, who met officials from North Korea´s Ministry of Culture, said he did not know when the concert would be held.

"That was the idea of going there, to see if it is possible. They have invited us and we have to see if logistically it is possible," he said.

Relations between the United States and North Korea have been tense for years. President Bush once branded the country part of an "axis of evil" with Iran and Iraq under Saddam Hussein. After North Korea tested a nuclear bomb last October, the U.S. worked to facilitate progress on the North´s disarmament.

In July, North Korea shut down its sole operating reactor at Yongbyon, which produced plutonium for weapons. Late last month, it pledged at arms talks to disable its main nuclear facilities and provide a full description of all its nuclear programs by the year´s end. In return, the U.S. has offered to take steps to eventually remove Pyongyang from its list of state sponsors of terror.

North Korea´s Ministry of Culture sent the orchestra an invitation in August. The Philharmonic has played in South Korea, as well as in other parts of Asia.

The U.S. bans all imports from North Korea without special authorization, but permits its citizens to travel to the North and have financial dealings with the country.

(AP) 10/11/2007