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Friday, August 4, 2000
Samaranch invites Korean leaders to Sydney

 LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) -- The leaders of North and South Korea have been invited by IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch to attend the Sydney Olympics.

 The letters were sent to the South Korean leader Kim Dae-jung and his northern counterpart Kim Jong Il on Thursday, a spokesman for the International Olympic Committee said Friday.

 The letters invited the leaders to attend either the opening or closing ceremonies of the Sydney Games, which run from Sept. 15 to Oct. 1. Neither letter made mention of the other leader, the spokesman said.

 He said invitations to leaders of competing nations were usually handled through national Olympic committees, so this was an unusual move by Samaranch.

 Last month, the IOC executive board accepted a proposal by the North Koreans to drop the two national flags from the opening ceremony and leave the athletes from both countries to march together under the Olympic flag.

 The Koreas remain technically in a state of war because their three-year conflict in the early 1950s ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

 North Korea, long one of the world's most reclusive and isolationist states, has begun opening up the outside world in recent months. The two Korean leaders met for the first time in the north's capital, Pyongyang, in June.
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