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Nuclear agency condemns North Korea

ElBaradei: 'One more chance' before going to Security Council

The Yongbyon nuclear facility as seen from space
The Yongbyon nuclear facility as seen from space

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VIENNA, Austria (CNN) -- The United Nations' nuclear watchdog has given North Korea "one more chance" to readmit weapons inspectors -- or face further sanctions or even military action.

The governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), at an emergency meeting in Vienna, passed a resolution condemning North Korea for violating international non-proliferation obligations and calling on Pyongyang to immediately come back into compliance.

The resolution came as North Korea accused U.S. "bellicose forces" of planning a military attack against it, and U.S. President George W. Bush insisted the United States has no such plan.

"We have no intention of invading North Korea," Bush said, "I believe this will be resolved peacefully, and I believe it can be resolved diplomatically."

But, the president added, "we expect people to honor obligations."

The IAEA resolution said the agency "deplores in the strongest terms North Korea's unilateral acts to impede the functioning of containment and surveillance equipment at its nuclear facilities and the nuclear material contained therein."

North Korea recently kicked out weapons inspectors who had been keeping tabs on the Yongbyon nuclear power plant and dismantled equipment the inspectors were using to monitor the plant.

As a result, the resolution said, the IAEA can't know for sure where North Korea is developing nuclear weapons.

"We're clueless as to what is happening," said IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, "not only in regard to the past program but (also) current activity."

ElBaradei has said he believes Pyongyang is using its nuclear facilities as a bargaining chip to extract political and economic concessions from the United States, Japan, and South Korea.

The IAEA board, which includes representatives of 35 nations, is sending a message to North Korea "that the international community is not ready to negotiate under blackmail or threat," ElBaradei said, adding that once North Korea fulfills its international obligations "there is a light at the end of the tunnel for them."

"The board is giving (North Korea) one more chance to come into compliance," ElBaradei said.

Fuel shipments halted

But if it chooses not to, the matter "will be referred to the (U.N.) Security Council," which could threaten further sanctions against North Korea or even U.N.-backed military action.

Meanwhile, high-level delegations from South Korea and Japan brought their concerns over North Korea's nuclear program to the Bush administration on Monday and were assured the United States would "work shoulder to shoulder" with them to ease the crisis.

The two Asian allies would be vulnerable to North Korean missiles and are seeking a diplomatic solution before Pyongyang adds to the two atom bombs it is believed to possess (Asian allies take concerns to U.S.).

North Korea is a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Under what is called the Agreed Framework, signed in 1994, the nation said it would no longer seek to develop nuclear weapons.

In exchange, the United States, Japan and South Korea agreed to help build two light-water nuclear reactors to replace the plutonium-producing reactors Pyongyang was using.

In October, North Korea said it had resumed its weapons program, claiming that the United States and its allies had failed to comply with the terms of the deal and rendered it null and void.

Still, North Korea has said it does not have nuclear weapons now.

North Korean officials have called their nation "peace-loving," and said they decided to restart the Yongbyon reactor after the United States halted fuel shipments to the country.

Plans to isolate North Korea

The IAEA resolution lays out a series of steps for North Korea to follow immediately, including meeting with IAEA officials, allowing the re-establishment of surveillance and containment measures, and "giving up any nuclear weapons program expeditiously and in a verifiable manner."

There was no immediate response from Pyongyang.

A senior State Department official told CNN the Bush administration would support the IAEA's course of action.

The White House has indicated it plans to isolate North Korea from the rest of the world until Pyongyang abandons its nuclear ambitions, despite calls from Russia and South Korea for U.S. dialogue with North Korea.

The Bush administration rejected North Korea's call for dialogue on the nuclear program, saying North Korea must give up its efforts to develop nuclear weapons before talks can begin.

After Monday's announcement from the IAEA, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer pointed out that the vote represented a condemnation from many nations, including Cuba and Iran.

"It takes a lot of work to get condemned by Iran and Cuba, and North Korea has done it," he said.

--CNN Correspondent Matthew Chance in Vienna contributed to this report.



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