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Muhammad el-Baradei in Beijing on March 14 (epa)
March 14, 2007 -- The head of the UN's nuclear watchdog says North Korean officials have told him they remain fully committed to a nuclear-disarmament deal.
Muhammad el-Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was speaking in Beijing after a two-day visit to North Korea's capital, Pyongyang.
He said his trip had been "quite useful" and that it opened the way to a normal relationship.
North Korea "also said that they are fully committed to the February 13 agreement, that they are ready to work with the [IAEA] to make sure that we monitor and verify the shutdown of the Yongbyon facility, including the plutonium factory," el-Baradei said.
Under the February deal
, North Korea agreed to begin dismantling its nuclear program, including shutting its Yongbyon reactor, in return for energy and other aid.
It was the IAEA's first negotiations with Pyongyang in more than four years. The visit came as part of long-running international efforts to try and convince North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.
Also today, the U.S. Treasury Department announced steps that could enable the release of North Korean assets frozen in a Macau bank, an action sought by Pyongyang as part of a nuclear arms deal.
(AP, AFP, Reuters)