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UN Security Council Expected to Hear IAEA-North Korea Dispute - 2003-02-12

The International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to refer the dispute over North Korea's nuclear program to the U.N. Security Council. The agency's 35-member executive board is expected to take the action at an emergency meeting.

The meeting was called to review North Korea's continuing defiance of international obligations in developing its nuclear program.

The head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, said the agency has little alternative but to refer the issue to the Security Council, because North Korea has ignored all appeals to cooperate.

The result could be sanctions against the communist state, something North Korea has said would be tantamount to an act of war.

Last year, North Korean officials disabled the IAEA's surveillance equipment at the Yongbyon nuclear facility. Two IAEA inspectors who had been observing the reactivation of the complex were then expelled, leaving the agency, "clueless" about nuclear developments in North Korea.

The Yongbyon facility can produce weapons-grade plutonium.

An emergency session of the IAEA board at the beginning of January called for North Korea to let the inspectors return and to comply with non-proliferation rules.

North Korea has indicated that it is only interested in talking to the United States about its nuclear program.

The IAEA board of governors is hoping to adopt a resolution unanimously, but some states may abstain, arguing that diplomatic initiatives by the European Union and South Korea need more time.