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In brief: North Korea asks for peace, treaty

Seoul, South Korea – North Korea called for an end of hostile relations with the United States in a New Year’s message and said it was committed to making the Korean peninsula nuclear-free through negotiations.

At the same time, a Tokyo-based pro-North Korean newspaper indicated that the leaders of North and South Korea could hold a summit this year, citing Pyongyang’s strong commitment to improve relations with Seoul.

Communist North Korea has long demanded that Washington end hostility toward its government and said it developed nuclear weapons to deter a U.S. attack.

The New Year statement brightened prospects for North Korea to rejoin stalled international talks on ending its nuclear weapons programs in exchange for aid and other concessions. Washington has sought to coax it to return to the talks, which also include South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.

The North has often said it wants to replace a cease-fire that ended the 1950-53 Korean War with a peace treaty and forge diplomatic relations with the U.S. as a way to win security guarantees – demands Washington says should be linked to North Korea’s verifiable denuclearization.

Police: Free desserts poisoned

Bogota, Colombia – Police and health authorities say a holiday dessert distributed to homeless Colombians contained ground glass and poison that caused one death and sickened 44 others.

The Cali police commander, Gen. Miguel Angel Bojaca, said a traditional custard and pastry was handed out on New Year’s Eve to impoverished people in the city’s El Calvario neighborhood.

Toxicologist Fernando Rojas says the custard contained ground glass and what appeared to be an insecticide, judging from patients’ symptoms.

Romelia Cuevas said Friday that investigators are pursuing leads on two people seen handing out the food.

The motive for the apparent poisoning was unclear.