Atomic Inspectors Clear N. Korea of Subterfuge

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The United States has no evidence that North Korea has diverted nuclear fuel into an atomic bomb-making program, and U.S. officials expressed guarded optimism Friday that a new crisis over the North's nuclear program had been averted.

Although North Korea violated its pledges by removing spent fuel from a small reactor before the arrival of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, all the fuel rods apparently are accounted for and have not been hidden for future use in nuclear weapons, senior U.S. officials said.

President Bill Clinton's administration warned that North Korea must safeguard the spent fuel rods for future inspection to assure that it has not deceived inspectors about its stockpile of nuclear materials. But officials stopped short of threatening economic sanctions.

U.S. officials also demanded that North Korea suspend the removal of spent fuel from the reactor so that it can preserve evidence of the reactor's operating history.

By its actions, North Korea appears, for the moment at least, to have headed off a major confrontation over its nuclear program. …