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2007/07/11 16:49 KST
IAEA chief wishes for N. Korea's return to NPT

By Yoo Cheong-mo
SEOUL, July 11 (Yonhap) -- The head of the international nuclear watchdog Wednesday urged North Korea to scrap its nuclear weapons program and return to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which it quit in 2002 following the accusations that it ran a secret enriched uranium weapons program.

   Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), forecast that the procedures for North Korea's nuclear program dismantlement would be complicated and turbulent.

   The IAEA chief made the remarks during his meeting with President Roh Moo-hyun shortly after his arrival in Seoul.

   "Now is a very crucial time for the IAEA, Korea and the entire world. North Korea has just returned to a verification process. I wish it would lead to North Korea's return to the NPT and complete scrapping of its nuclear weapons program," said ElBaradei.

   "This is a very complicated and difficult process and can't be resolved overnight. We need patience. The (North Korean nuclear) problem has to be resolved through dialogue and engagement."
He then stressed that international society still has to speed up the settlement of the nuclear issue as it has already lost a lot of time.

   On arriving at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, earlier in the day, the IAEA chief told reporters that the U.N. watchdog's inspectors are to return to Pyongyang on Saturday to verify the shutdown of the North's main nuclear reactor in Yongbyon.

   North Korea said it is prepared to close its Yongbyon reactor as the first step in implementing the six-nation accord reached in February requiring North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program. Under the agreement, IAEA inspectors visited North Korea in late June for the first time in nearly five years.

   ElBaradei is scheduled to deliver a speech at a Thursday forum marking the 50th anniversary of cooperation between South Korea and the IAEA.