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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 March 2007, 13:21 GMT
N Korea 'committed' to disarming
Mohamed ElBaradei in China on 12 March 2007
Mr ElBaradei is back in Beijing ahead of six-party talks on Monday
UN nuclear watchdog head Mohamed ElBaradei has said that North Korea is still "fully committed" to giving up its nuclear programme.

He was speaking in Beijing after holding talks in North Korea, which he described as "quite useful".

He was hoping to arrange for the return of UN nuclear inspectors, seen as key to the success of a recent deal.

Last month, North Korea agreed to end its nuclear programme in return for large quantities of foreign aid.

This was Mr ElBaradei's first visit to North Korea, and the IAEA's first since Pyongyang threw out its nuclear inspectors in 2002.

"The DPRK [North Korea] said they were committed to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," he said on his return to Beijing.

"It is in the interests of North Korea to normalise relations with the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency]," he told a news conference. "We cleared the air. We opened the door for a normal relationship."

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But officials in Pyongyang had made clear that US financial sanctions had to be lifted first before talks could move forward, he said.

Mr ElBaradei said this was a long process - "the proof of the pudding is in the tasting, and we have not yet tasted the pudding," he added.

Six-nation talks

Mr ElBaradei was reportedly unable to meet the North's top nuclear negotiator Kim Kye-gwan as planned on Wednesday, because of scheduling problems.

Mr ElBaradei met instead with another minister, because Mr Kim was busy preparing for forthcoming six-party negotiations, according to an IAEA spokeswoman.

Six-nation working group discussions resume on Monday in Beijing involving officials from the US, China, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas.

The deal called on the North to "shut down and seal" its Yongbyon facility within 60 days in return for fuel aid.

South Korea earlier said it had seen no sign that the North was shutting down its main nuclear facility, a key part of the landmark deal reached last month.

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