U.N. nuclear watchdog team says N. Korea cooperated on inspections

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

BEIJING -- North Korea has cooperated fully with a team of U.N. nuclear experts who were monitoring the shutdown and sealing of the country's sole plutonium-producing reactor, the leader of the team said late Monday.

The 10-member International Atomic Energy Agency team went to North Korea on July 12 to supervise the closing of the Yongbyon reactor, the key component of the North's nuclear program.

"I should say that in doing our activities, we had complete cooperation from the DPRK authorities and because of that, we think that what we needed to perform was performed," Adel Tolba told reporters on arrival at Beijing's airport. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is the formal name of North Korea.

Tolba's team has been replaced by a second six-member IAEA team that arrived in Pyongyang on Saturday.

He said his team saw all five facilities it was supposed to visit.

The IAEA confirmed last week that North Korea had shut down its sole functioning reactor at Yongbyon -- the first tangible progress after years of negotiations involving the United States and other regional powers.

IAEA inspectors also are working to verify the status of two unfinished reactors, a spent fuel reprocessing facility and a fuel fabrication plant.

The North exploded a test nuclear weapon in October, but four months later agreed to scrap its nuclear program in exchange for economic and political concessions in a deal with the United States, Russia, China, Japan and South Korea.

It will eventually receive the equivalent of a total of 1 million tons for disabling its nuclear facilities under a February agreement with the five countries.

North Korea has begun receiving oil from South Korea as a reward for shutting down Yongbyon, which is located 60 miles north of Pyongyang.

The shutdown is the first step North Korea has taken to scale back its nuclear ambitions since the crisis began in late 2002.

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