Restoring disabled N.Korea nukes would need year-US

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VIENNA, Nov 22 (Reuters) It could take North Korea about a year to rebuild its Yongbyon nuclear bomb complex once it has been disabled under a six-nation disarmament accord, the United States said today.

North Korea agreed in February in a deal with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States to dismantle its nuclear programme in exchange for fuel and economic aid as well as steps to end its isolation.

The agreement requires North Korea to disable its three key nuclear plants by the end of 2007, provide a list of all nuclear arms activity, account for all its fissile material and answer US suspicions of a clandestine enrichment drive.

''Since November 3, a team of technical experts ... has been continuously on-site at Yongbyon, working with (North Korean) technicians on a series of measures to disable the 5 MW reactor, the radiochemical laboratory and the fuel rod fabrication plant,'' Gregory Schulte, US envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency, told a meeting of its Board of Governors.

''With the set of all agreed disablement activities completed, the United States believes it would take about one year to reconstitute the three facilities,'' he said in a debate on progress in dismantling North Korea's programme.

Also during the meeting, the 27-nation European Union pledged 1.8 million euros (2.67 million dollars) to support an IAEA mission to monitor and verify the shutdown of the country's nuclear facilities.

North Korea announced in 2005 that it had nuclear arms and test-detonated its first nuclear device in 2006, drawing worldwide condemnation as UN financial and arms sanctions.

REUTERS RSA RN2301

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