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U.N. seeks end to nuke standoffs
The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency appealed on Tuesday to North Korea to give up its atom bomb program and urged Iran to work harder to assure the world it is not following Pyongyang's lead.
The two countries, which US President Bush has called part of an "axis of evil" of states seeking the world's deadliest weapons, are among the main issues being discussed by the governing board of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at its quarterly meeting this week.
North Korea, which says it has the bomb, kicked out all U.N. nuclear inspectors on Dec. 31, 2002. Later it withdrew from the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, becoming the first country to pull out of the landmark arms control pact.
"The agency stands ready to work with the DPRK (North Korea), and with all others, toward a solution that addresses the needs of the international community to ensure that all nuclear activities in the DPRK are exclusively for peaceful purposes, as well as addressing the security needs of the DPRK," he said.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is the official name of North Korea.
The Bush administration, under fire for what critics call its failed North Korea policy, expressed confidence on Tuesday that "one way or another" Pyongyang ultimately would give up its nuclear weapons.
"One way or another they're not going to have these systems," said Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, the top U.S. diplomat dealing with Pyongyang.
"And so the real issue for them is what are the terms under which they'll give them up," he said during a two-hour appearance before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations panel.
As part of ElBaradei's investigation to determine whether Iran's nuclear program is peaceful, he urged Tehran to allow IAEA experts to return to a military site called Parchin, which they visited once but have since been barred from visiting.
"I would ... ask Iran to support the agency's efforts to pursue further its investigation of the Lavizan-Shian and Parchin sites," he said, adding his inspectors wanted to visit "areas of interest" at Parchin.
Parchin, the center of Iran's munitions industry, and Lavizan are among the sites where the United States suspects Iranian scientists have conducted research related to the development of nuclear weapons.
Iran says it has no interest in such arms, only in civilian nuclear technology to generate electricity. ElBaradei has no hard proof Iran wants the bomb, but says the "jury is still out" on whether Tehran has a covert military atomic program.
IAEA experts visited Parchin earlier this year but Iran rejected a request for a follow-up. The United States believes Iran may have experimented with high explosives appropriate for atomic weapons at Parchin, 30 km (19 miles) southeast of Tehran.
A senior Iranian official did not say Iran would reopen Parchin's doors to inspectors, but said it was willing to talk.
ElBaradei said in a speech to the 35-nation IAEA board that he wanted "access to dual-use equipment and other information related to the Lavizan-Shian site." The agency began looking at Lavizan last year after the site was razed.
The Iranians have admitted that Lavizan was once a military research and development site but denied conducting any nuclear weapons research there or anywhere else in Iran.
ELBARADEI BACKS U.S. PROPOSAL
The 62-year-old Egyptian also threw his weight behind a U.S. proposal aimed at bolstering global nuclear security and cracking down on states that violate non-proliferation rules.
ElBaradei, who won a third term as IAEA director-general on Monday after the United States gave up its campaign to oust him, said the U.S. plan to set up a new IAEA committee was useful.
Diplomats on the board said ElBaradei had opposed the plan when it was first proposed by Washington earlier this year. The U.S. proposal had undergone significant revisions since then to overcome IAEA objections, they said.
This week, the IAEA board is also expected to approve a request by Saudi Arabia to sign an agreement that would severely curtail the agency's ability to verify that Riyadh does not have any nuclear secrets, diplomats on the IAEA board told Reuters.
The "small quantities protocol" is an accord states which say they have little or no nuclear material can sign with the IAEA. The agency has said it is a dangerous loophole in the IAEA inspection regime because the U.N. body lacks the right to verify that states meet all non-proliferation requirements.
The United States, Australia and the European Union have all asked Saudi Arabia to withdraw its request to sign the IAEA agreement but Riyadh refused, the diplomats said.