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North Korea to restart nuclear bomb project

North Korea has removed UN nuclear watchdog monitors, seals and cameras from its shutdown atomic bomb-producing complex and aims to reintroduce nuclear material there in a week, officials said today.

The announcement was made by a senior International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) official to a closed meeting of its 35-nation board of governors in Vienna.

North Korea said on Friday it was working to reactivate the Yongbyon reactor complex, which it had been dismantling since last November under a disarmament-for-aid deal with five powers that has gone awry.

"There are no more seals and surveillance equipment in place at the reprocessing facility. (North Korea) further stated that from here on, IAEA inspectors will have no further access to the reprocessing plant," said IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming, summarizing the remarks by the senior agency official.

"(North Korea) also informed IAEA inspectors that they plan to introduce nuclear material to the reprocessing plant in one week's time," Fleming told reporters.

Western diplomats and nuclear analysts have said North Korea would need at least several months and probably more time to restart the largely dismantled complex.

"The IAEA is no longer able to verify what is going on at Yongbyon," said a dismayed European diplomat at the meeting.

The maverick Stalinist state's foreign ministry has said steps are under way to restore Yongbyon to its "original state".