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IAEA Chief Leaves for North Korea
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International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director Mohamed ElBaradei left for North Korea Sunday. Part of his mission will be arranging the return of inspectors to the country as outlined in the six-party pact aiming to dismantle North Korea's atomic bomb program.

ElBaradei said he would look at how to make the agreement a reality and to forge closer ties between the IAEA and Pyongyang following a four-year chill years after North Korea expelled IAEA inspectors and rejected the international non-proliferation treaty.

"I'd like... to discuss the broad framework of how the new agreement will be implemented, namely the agency's monitoring and inspection of the shutdown of the Yongbyon nuclear facility including the reprocessing facility," ElBaradei told reporters before leaving.

The February 13 accord revolves around a shutdown of Yongbyon by mid-April. North Korea first announced back in 2005 that it possessed nuclear arms and carried out its first nuclear test in 2006, prompting the UN into imposing financial and arms sanctions.

Diplomats stated that ElBaradei would likely not finalize precise details of a new round of inspections during his stopovers in Beijing surrounding his March 13-14 stay in Pyongyang.

"This is the initial meeting after years of absence with a very unpredictable state after years," said a developing-nation ambassador accredited to the IAEA who spoke on condition of anonymity.

ElBaradei himself was cautious, depicting his trip as the beginning of a long journey, saying: "I hope we can move forward but again I should caution that this is the first step in a long process it will have to be an incremental process."

A senior European diplomat commented Pyongyang's invitation to ElBaradei did not enter into the details of any discussions to be had.

Mark Fitzpatrick, an analyst at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies, also outlined that despite the willingness of all involved to meet the minimum requirements of the February accord's 60-day deadline, many potential pitfalls still remained.

(China Daily via agenices March 12, 2007)

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