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N.Korea ousts U.N. monitors, to restart atom bomb plant

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Mark Heinrich and Sylvia Westall
Wednesday, Sept 24, 2008

North Korea has expelled U.N. monitors from its plutonium-making nuclear plant and plans to start reactivating it next week, rowing back from a 2007 deal to scrap its atomic bomb program, officials said on Wednesday.

The Stalinist state said on Friday it was working to restart the Yongbyon atomic complex it had been dismantling since last November under a disarmament-for-aid agreement with five powers.

Olli Heinonen, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s head of non-proliferation safeguards, told a closed meeting of the IAEA’s 35-nation board of governors that monitors were forced to leave the plutonium facility this week.

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“There are no more seals and surveillance equipment in place at the (plutonium) reprocessing facility,” IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said, referring to the most proliferation-sensitive installation at Yongbyon.

“(North Korea) further stated that from here on, IAEA inspectors will have no further access to the reprocessing plant,” she said, summarizing Heinonen’s remarks.

“(North Korea) also informed IAEA inspectors that they plan to introduce nuclear material to the reprocessing plant in one week’s time,” Fleming told reporters outside the Vienna meeting.

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This article was posted: Wednesday, September 24, 2008 at 10:42 am

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