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Friday, 29 November, 2002, 15:23 GMT
UN urges N Korea nuclear checks
North Korean missile
Pyongyang denies admitting to a nuclear programme
The United Nations' nuclear monitoring agency has urged North Korea to accept inspections of its alleged atomic weapons programme.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also said it "deplored" Pyongyang's assertion that it was entitled to possess such weapons.


I think the message is clear: North Korea should cooperate

Mohamed ElBaradei
IAEA Director General
Earlier this month, the United States said North Korea admitted to having a secret nuclear programme during a visit last month by US envoy James Kelly.

But Pyongyang denies having made such an admission, saying it only claimed the right to possess nuclear arms.

The agency's 35-nation board of governors called Pyongyang's stance a "violation of North Korea's international commitments" and urged the reclusive country to "open immediately all relevant facilities to IAEA inspections and safeguards".

The board also called on Pyongyang "to give up any nuclear weapons programs expeditiously and in a verifiable manner".

"I think the message is clear: North Korea should co-operate," IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei told reporters at the agency's Vienna headquarters on Friday.

Forced admission?

Mr ElBaradei said he had sent a letter to the North Korean Government in October asking for inspections.

He added that the call was now being made by the IAEA's entire board of governors.

The United States suspects North Korea of having a secret nuclear weapons programme, in breach of a 1994 arms control deal.

US envoy James Kelly
Kelly travelled to Pyongyang last month
Pyongyang denies this. This week, North Korea's state-run KCBS television said that Washington had distorted a discussion between North Korean officials and Mr Kelly in October.

Mr Kelly has said he forced an admission from Pyongyang that it had a programme for producing highly enriched uranium - a key ingredient in nuclear weapons.

That alleged admission led the US and its allies to stop providing North Korea with fuel aid under the 1994 deal, and has considerably heightened tension on the peninsula.

But KCBS, monitored in Seoul by South Korea's Yonhap news agency, insisted that Pyongyang had simply reiterated the country's right to possess nuclear weapons if the US broke the accord.

US President George W Bush has included North Korea in an "axis of evil" - alongside Iraq and Iran - and unveiled a doctrine of pre-emptive strikes against states allegedly developing weapons of mass destruction.

Although the IAEA has been carrying out very limited inspections in North Korea since the early 1990s, it has never been able to conduct intrusive inspections.


Nuclear tensions

Inside North Korea

Divided peninsula

TALKING POINT
See also:

28 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
22 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
16 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
21 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
21 Oct 02 | Americas
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