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Blix: Verification Key to Nuclear Agreement with N. Korea


Former U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix says it is doubtful talks can halt North Korea's nuclear weapons program, unless any agreement includes a solid verification scheme. VOA's Steve Herman reports from Tokyo, where Blix was presenting the recommendations of a commission he heads on weapons of mass destruction.

Hans Blix says any international agreement with Pyongyang about its nuclear weapons should ensure North Korea fully cooperates on inspections of all related sites.

Blix says negotiating an agreement without total verification could result in "very unpleasant surprises," because the world could be lulled into a false state of confidence.

Blix told reporters in Tokyo on Friday that North Korea has demonstrated it cannot be trusted to abide by agreements on paper, thus on-site verifications are vital for any workable accord.

But the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency acknowledges it will be "a hard nut to crack" to convince Pyongyang to allow inspections in a country he says has traditionally been hermetically sealed.

North Korea, after boycotting talks for more than one year, has agreed to return to six-nation negotiations about its nuclear program, but no date has been set. The communist state announced last month that it had tested its first atomic weapon.

Comparing North Korea to Iran, Blix said North Korea is an acute case and negotiations are urgently needed.

Quoting U.S. Central Intelligence Agency estimates, Blix said, Iran appears to be 5 to 10 years away from producing a viable atomic weapon.

"I'm sure that Iran watches very carefully what is happening in the Korean case, and, if North Korea continues intransigence, then the Iranians might, perhaps, also tell themselves that, 'well, stand fast and just go on.' And eventually they might be forgotten," he said.

Blix added that it would be a mistake for Tehran to take that attitude.

The former Swedish foreign minister became a familiar figure on the world diplomatic stage when he clashed with the Bush administration prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Blix, who headed the U.N. commission inspecting Iraq's weapons, expressed doubt that Saddam Hussein's regime possessed weapons of mass destruction, as indicated by the American intelligence community.

Blix is currently chairing the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, which is funded by the Swedish government. His visit to Tokyo wraps up a tour of Asia, where he has been publicizing his commission's "Weapons of Terror" report, issued earlier this year. The report outlines 60 steps the international community can take toward the goal of banning and eliminating all nuclear weapons.

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