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Staff writer

The International Atomic Energy Agency is pleased that North Korea’s nuclear program has been frozen, but it is dissatisfied with the communist state’s failure to provide information on the program, according to Mohamed ElBaradei, director general-designate of the IAEA.

“Right now, we are managing the freeze of the program and we are satisfied the program is frozen,” ElBaradei said. “We are not yet, however, allowed under the Safeguard Agreement (between the IAEA and North Korea) to verify the history of the program.”

The IAEA has been urging North Korea to provide information on an undeclared amount of plutonium it supposedly maintained in its program. “Unless we verify the past program, we will be not able to say that North Korea is in good standing with regard to its NPT (Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty) obligation,” ElBaradei said.

ElBaradei said North Korea is linking the issue of information disclosure with a 1994 agreement between Pyongyang and Washington, in which the communist state is to be provided with two light-water reactors. In return, North Korea agreed to freeze and ultimately dismantle its nuclear program, which the West suspected was being used to develop nuclear weapons.

The Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, an international consortium led by the U.S., Japan and South Korea to build the light-water reactors, started the project with a ground-breaking ceremony late last month. A team of technical experts from the agency will meet with North Korean officials next week for the first time since the ground-breaking to discuss the issue of information preservation, ElBaradei said.

“We hope there will be a change of heart and progress in that regard,” he said. “I hope the initiation of the reactor project will convince the North Korean officials that things are moving.”

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