North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has sent word that he wants to hold a summit with South Korean President Lee Myungbak in the latest sign of easing tensions between the divided nations, news reports said on Monday.

Mr Kims envoy proposed the summit during a rare meeting on Sunday, and Mr Lee told the envoy that he would be open to a summit if it is discuss North Koreas nuclear programme, the Souths masscirculation Chosun Ilbo daily reported, citing an unidentified government official.

Another leading newspaper, the JoongAng Ilbo, carried a similar report.

However, the Souths presidential Blue House denied the reports, saying that Mr Lee and the Norths envoy had general discussions on improving relations between the two sides, but that nothing related to a summit was mentioned.

North Korea has significantly softened its stance toward the South in recent weeks, freeing a South Korean worker held there for more than four months, agreeing to lift restrictions on border crossings and pledging to resume suspended joint projects and the reunion of families separated during the Korean War.

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