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UN Nuclear Agency Keeping Communication Open with N. Korea - 2002-12-22

The U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, based in Vienna, says it is keeping communications open with North Korea, despite Pyongyang's action at the weekend to disable the agency's surveillance equipment at a nuclear reactor. The IAEA also is currently involved in inspections in Iraq, and has confirmed that it will visit Iran in February. "There has been no response to recent letters," siad chief IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky, "but at least we have two inspectors permanently based there, so there is a channel of communication, but not at a high level."

North Korea has rejected requests by the IAEA for high-level talks on its nuclear program. Mr. Gwozdecky also confirmed that the agency's inspectors will visit Iran on February 25 to look at nuclear facilities under construction there. "We will be looking at facilities not even completed yet that are not formally under safeguards," as he puts it. The visit is the first step in a process of many visits to understand the architecture of the place and to design the most effective monitoring regime for that facility."

American officials believe new nuclear facilities in Iran could be used to make nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, the agency's team in Vienna is reported to have been working day and night on translating and analyzing the dossier presented by Iraq on its weapons program.

Mr. Gwozdecky said the agency has "in the vicinity of 100 inspectors working in Iraq, not including translators, logistic people, communicators, medics and so on."

A laboratory at Seibersdorf, near Vienna, is analyzing around 10 samples collected by the IAEA inspectors.