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ElBaradei: Pyongyang Ready to Cooperate
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The UN nuclear watchdog chief said yesterday Pyongyang is positive about rejoining the IAEA and ready to cooperate in the implementation of the agreement reached on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue last month at the six-party talks.


Speaking in Beijing last night after a two-day trip to North Korea, Mohamed ElBaradei said his visit had been "quite useful."


"We cleared the air and opened the door for a normal relationship," he said. "They understand what we have to do and we understand their concerns and expectations."


He said North Korea is ready to cooperate fully with the IAEA as soon as the US lifts the financial sanctions it has imposed on Pyongyang.


ElBaradei also said North Korea remains committed to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and is ready to implement the agreement, reached on February 13, within the time limit set.


He warned that it would not be an overnight process, and would require patience from all sides.


During his stay in Pyongyang, ElBaradei met with Kim Yong-dae, North Korea's second-highest-ranked legislator, who oversees the Yongbyon nuclear facility.


However, he did not meet with Pyongyang's nuclear envoy, Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan, who was ill after a visit to New York.


ElBaradei's Pyongyang visit precedes a new round of six-party talks, due to begin in Beijing on Monday, which will review progress made since the milestone agreement.


The agreement foresees North Korea shutting down and sealing the Yongbyon facility and allowing IAEA inspections, in exchange for economic and fuel aid.


Inspectors from the atomic watchdog have not visited the country since Pyongyang expelled them in late 2002 as a disarmament deal fell apart. The country withdrew from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty days later.


ElBaradei's visit is seen as the latest sign that Pyongyang is complying with the initial actions of the joint statement released on September 19, 2005.


The IAEA chief will meet Chinese Foreign Ministry officials today and is also expected to meet with Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, the top US negotiator, who arrived in Beijing yesterday for Saturday's working group meeting on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.


South Korea, the leader of the economic and energy cooperation group, will hold a session at its embassy in Beijing today led by its top nuclear negotiator Chun Yung-woo.


(China Daily March 15, 2007)

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