North Korea to start nuclear rollback soon - South

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SEOUL, Oct 24 (Reuters) North Korea will soon start disabling its Soviet-era nuclear facility that makes arms-grade plutonium as called for in a deal the secretive state struck with regional powers, the South's foreign minister said today.

North Korea reached an agreement this month with five countries to disable its Yongbyon nuclear plant in exchange for energy aid and an end to its status as an international pariah.

''There are some details left but we have, in effect, agreed on the detailed measures for disablement. Based on that agreement, it's approaching the stage to be carried out soon,'' Song Min-soon said at a news briefing.

Other South Korean government officials have said they expect the North, which conducted its first nuclear test a year ago, to start the process in November, with the first steps coming as soon as next week.

US nuclear experts visited the North this month to help draw up plans on disabling its antiquated reactor, a plant that produces fuel rods and another that turns spent fuel into plutonium.

By the end of 2007, North Korea is also supposed to fully account for its plutonium stockpile -- thought by the United States to be about 50 kg -- and answer US suspicions that it has a clandestine plan to enrich uranium for weapons.

Reuters ARB GC0940

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