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Russia Criticizes North Korea's Expulsion of IAEA Inspectors - 2002-12-30

A top Russian official has criticized North Korea for ordering international arms inspectors to leave North Korea and urged it to follow its agreements regarding nuclear issues.

The Russian minister of foreign affairs, Igor Ivanov, said the decision of North Korea to remove international inspectors from its nuclear energy facility causes regret.

Mr. Ivanov called on North Korea to strictly observe all respective international obligations regarding its nuclear program.

Mr. Ivanov's comments were reported by Russian wire services.

The international community has long sought to discourage North Korea from developing nuclear weapons. The latest crisis began last week when North Korea announced it was going to expel observers from the International Atomic Energy Agency and also removed United Nations monitoring devices at a nuclear plant capable of making weapons grade plutonium.

On Sunday, North Korea added to concerns about its nuclear program by hinting that it may withdraw from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

The Russian foreign minister also said North Korea should abide by a 1994 agreement with the United States.

Under the 1994 agreement, North Korea was supposed to abandon nuclear programs that could create weapons, in return for international help building nuclear energy reactors, as well as fuel oil shipments.

This autumn, U.S. officials said North Korea admitted that it had resumed its nuclear program.