Nuclear watchdog set to resume inspection of N.K. nuke facilities

Yonhap
2/14/2007

Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Tuesday that United Nations nuclear inspectors will return to North Korea following the international deal committing the communist regime to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

“The IAEA will go back to North Korea to ensure that all nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes,” he told reporters during a visit to Luxembourg.

He did not say when the inspectors would go but said it would be discussed at a meeting of the agency’s board of governors on March 6.

ElBaradei welcomed the agreement, although he had yet to see all thedetails. “It’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “This is the first part of the process.”

He suggested it could serve as an example for ending the international standoff over Iran’s nuclear program.

“We should find a way to get Iran to sit around the table” and talk to world powers, ElBaradei said.

The agency has been shut out of North Korea for four years and ElBaradei has frequently urged Pyongyang to end its nuclear pariah status by returning to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty it quit in 2003 and allowing back agency inspectors.

In a related move, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon welcomed the groundbreaking deal struck with North Korea to end its nuclear program, calling it the “first practical stage” toward a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

Ban was “encouraged that this constructive effort by the international community can eventually result in strengthening the global nonproliferation regime as well as in contributing to durable peace, security and prosperity in the region,” a statement issued through U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said.

“This agreement represents the first practical stage toward a non-nuclear peninsula,” said Ban, South Korea’s former foreign minister.

He also urged participants at the six-party talks in Beijing — the two Koreas, China, the United States, Russia and Japan — “to make every effort to sustain the current positive momentum and ensure that this accord is implemented as agreed.”

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