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IAEA Approves North Korea Monitoring Mission

The International Atomic Energy Agency has approved sending experts to North Korea to monitor the shutdown of the communist state's main nuclear facility.

IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei said Monday that inspectors could begin their mission within two weeks, once North Korea receives part of a promised 50,000 - ton fuel shipment from South Korea. Seoul's Unification Ministry says the first shipment will be delivered Thursday, with the rest arriving next month.

The oil shipment will be the first installment in a deal reached in February during six-party talks with China, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States.

U.S. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack Monday said the United States would prefer to see the talks on North Korea's nuclear disarmament process reconvene after Pyongyang takes steps to shut down its nuclear program.

North Korea refused for months to act on its promise to close the reactor, until it received about $25 million frozen in a Macau bank in a dispute with Washington over alleged money-laundering.

IAEA inspectors recently visited the Yongbyon facility and met with government officials to discuss how to monitor the facility's shutdown.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.