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N Korean envoy too busy to meet IAEA chief: report

Kim Kye-Gwan says he is too busy for an expected meeting with ElBaradei.

world Updated: Mar 16, 2007 11:31 IST

The head of the UN atomic watchdog was unable to meet on Wednesday with North Korea's top negotiator on a visit to push ahead a breakthrough agreement on Pyongyang's nuclear drive, a report said.

Kim Kye-Gwan, North Korea's envoy to six-nation nuclear talks, said he was too busy for an expected meeting with Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Japan's Kyodo News reported.

ElBaradei instead met with another of North Korea's vice foreign ministers, Kim Hyong-Jun, Kyodo News said, quoting IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming.

The IAEA chief was due to head to Beijing later in the day.

ElBaradei was in Pyongyang to discuss the return of IAEA inspectors to the communist state, which kicked them out in December 2002.

The North said it would re-admit inspectors as part of a February 13 six-nation deal that saw it agree to close a key nuclear facility within 60 days in return for badly needed heavy fuel oil.

But ElBaradei has warned not to expect quick breakthroughs with North Korea, calling negotiations "a very complex process."