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IAEA Urges N. Korea to Resume International Dialogue on Nuclear Programs - 2004-10-08


The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency is calling on North Korea to resume dialogue with the international community about its suspected nuclear weapons programs.

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei on Friday expressed impatience with North Korea, and made a renewed pitch to Pyongyang to work with the international community to solve the issues surrounding its nuclear weapons program.

Mr. ElBaradei says the International Atomic Energy Agency has had little contact with North Korea since that country withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in January 2003. He says he would like very much to renew such contacts.

"For North Korea to come back into the non-proliferation regime, and for us to be able to resume our verification work there could again open the way with a comprehensive settlement of the North Korean issue that should include security assurances, that should include economic and humanitarian assistance," said Mohamed ElBaradei.

The United Nations' top expert on nuclear proliferation spoke to reporters during a visit to Tokyo. He spent the past few days attending a conference in Seoul and discussing South Korea's compliance with IAEA regulations.

North Korea on Friday again said it would rejoin six-nation talks on its nuclear ambitions, if the United States drops what North Korea called Washington's "hostile policy" toward Pyongyang.

The two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan have held three rounds of talks in Beijing on ending Pyongyang's nuclear programs, but little progress has been made.

North Korea refused to attend a fourth round, scheduled for last month. Among other things, Pyongyang said it wants to wait for a report about recently revealed activities by South Korean scientists, who secretly enriched uranium and processed plutonium.

Mr. ElBaradei says it could very well be that Pyongyang wants see the results of the U.S. presidential election next month before deciding on further talks. He also said there is no comparison between South Korea's small experiments years ago and North Korea's current full-scale efforts to reprocess plutonium and its suspected uranium enrichment projects.

He also called on Iran to freeze all of its uranium enrichment activities, before the agency's board of governors meets on November 25.

"I continue to urge Iran to come into full suspension of all enrichment-related activities, as requested by the Board of Governors to contribute to confidence-building, particularly after many years of a program that has been undeclared," he said.

Mr. ElBaradei says IAEA inspectors need to be able to verify that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons.

Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful, and says it is not making weapons, but has said it is preparing several tons of yellowcake uranium for enrichment.

The IAEA's board of governors last month demanded that Tehran freeze efforts to enrich uranium, which can be used to make weapons.

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