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IAEA delegation visits North Korea nuclear facilities

By Xinhua

Pyongyang : A delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is in Yongbyon to inspect the North Korean nuclear facilities Thursday.

"We are going to see the facilities and continue our discussion in more detail," said Olli Heinonen, head of the IAEA delegation and IAEA deputy director general.

The delegation is expected to return to Pyongyang Friday afternoon.

The delegation arrived here Tuesday after a frozen fund dispute between the US and North Korea was resolved Monday.

The team is scheduled to negotiate arrangements for shutting down and sealing the Yongbyon facilities.

Heinonen said his delegation has been engaged in discussions with the North Korean side, and the meeting would continue until Friday evening.

While declining to reveal details of the ongoing talks, the chief nuclear inspector said he was "optimistic, always optimistic" about the prospects.

Asked how many nuclear facilities could be shut down, he said, "We'll decide once talks finish Friday. Let's weigh it up tomorrow (Friday) evening."

This is the first visit of IAEA to North Korea since late 2002, when the country expelled IAEA nuclear inspectors and later withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Pyongyang announced its first nuclear test in 2006.

At the six-party talks in February, involving China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, North Korea and the US, Pyongyang pledged to shut down the Yongbyon reactor within 60 days in exchange for 50,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil or equivalent aid.

However, the denuclearisation process was held up as North Korea insisted that its $25 million frozen at the Banco Delta Asia in Macao be returned before shutting down the nuclear facilities and reviving negotiations.