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N. Korea Rejects Nuclear Inspections

North Korea has rejected a request from the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect its nuclear facilities.

North Korea has turned down a call from the International Atomic Energy Agency to accept inspections of the Stalinist state's nuclear facilities.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency, monitored in Tokyo, says North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun rejected the request in a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency director.

The letter says Pyongyang cannot accept the inspection and notes that there is no change in what it calls "the government's principled stand" on the nuclear issue. It accuses the U.N. nuclear monitoring agency of being under the sway of the United States, which it says wants to isolate and stifle North Korea. The agency passed a resolution last week urging North Korea to immediately open "all relevant facilities to IAEA inspection and safeguards." It also said it deplores Pyongyang's recent assertion that it is entitled to possess such weapons.

North Korea told U.S. envoy James Kelly in October that it has a nuclear weapons program, which breaches a 1994 arms control agreement. The admission led the United States and other nations to stop providing food aid to the impoverished country.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the United States, Japan, and South Korea have repeatedly called for Pyongyang to halt its nuclear program.

The International Atomic Energy Agency is responsible for ensuring the 182 non-nuclear-weapon states that have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty fulfill their pledge not to develop nuclear weapons. It has carried out very limited inspections in North Korea since the early 1990's, but has been barred from conducting a more in-depth probe.

The international agency says that even if it had unlimited access to the North's key nuclear facilities, a full inspection would take at least three years.