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UN says NKorea could restart nuclear facilities

world Updated: Apr 20, 2009 14:43 IST

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North Korea could restart its nuclear facilities within months, the head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog warned on Monday, but he added he was optimistic that negotiations on halting Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions could be revived.

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed El-Baradei said on Monday “it could be a question of months” when asked how soon North Korea could restart its nuclear facilities.

North Korea vowed last week to restart its nuclear program and quit six-nation disarmament talks because the UN Security Council criticised its April 5 rocket launch as a violation of resolutions barring it from ballistic missile-related activity.

North Korea told the IAEA on Tuesday it would reactivate all its facilities and go ahead with the reprocessing of spent fuel.

However, El-Baradei said he was hopeful that openness shown by the United States under the Obama administration would help restart international talks with North Korea.

“While I am distressed because, of course, what has happened in North Korea is a setback, I am optimistic about the new environment,” he said, and pointed to Washington’s new openness to dialogue with countries such as North Korea and Iran, countries whose nuclear ambitions have alarmed the international community.