Clinton meets detained US reporters

WASHINGTON: Former US president Bill Clinton, in North Korea to secure the freedom of imprisoned American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, met with the pair on Tuesday, ABC News reported.

Citing a government source, the US television network described the meeting between Clinton and the detained reporters -- who were sentenced in June to 12 years in a labor camp for an illegal border crossing -- as "very emotional."

The source, familiar with Clinton's efforts in Pyongyang, was hopeful Ling and Lee would be back in the United States on Wednesday, ABC said. Clinton was expected to leave North Korea later Tuesday.

The White House, which described the trip as a "solely private mission" for Clinton, has kept mostly mum on the mission, as the former US president held surprise mercy talks with reclusive North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il.

Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency said Kim welcomed Clinton's visit and had "an exhaustive conversation with him."

Washington denied earlier North Korean reports that Clinton had delivered a verbal message to Kim from current US President Barack Obama as part of his historic foray, the highest-profile visit by an American to Pyongyang for nearly a decade.