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North Korea taken off U.S. Terrorist List

The New York Times has reported that North Korea has been taken off a list of state sponsors of terrorism in a bid to salvage a fragile nuclear deal that looked to be on the verge of collapse, the Bush administration announced Saturday.

The U.S. made the decision after North Korea agreed to continue disabling a plutonium plant and to allow some inspections to confirm that it had stopped its nuclear program as agreed several months earlier, Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, said.

The deal, seen as a major foreign policy achievement by Bush, began losing its strength in recent weeks in a dispute over the verification program. As recently as last week, North Korea barred international inspectors from the plant.

President Bush, who had called the country part of an “axis of evil?, was still reluctant over sending administration officials to negotiate.

Republican presidential nominee, Senator John McCain, did not approve this motion, arguing that North Korea had yet to prove that it was serious about adhering to its commitment to denuclearize. Democratic presidential nominee, Senator Barack Obama, called the deal “a modest step forward? in dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Officials of the Bush administration said the deal was the best the U.S. could get at this time, fighting potential criticism that they were seeking a foreign policy victory in their last months.

On Sunday North Korea gladly acknowledged its removal from Washington's terrorism blacklist and said that it would continue disabling its nuclear weapons facilities, enabling U.S. and United Nations monitors back into its main nuclear complex.

Bush administration officials have been debating about the latest deal with its partners in the “six-party? talks, the partners including Russia, South Korea and Japan that negotiated the agreement in 2007 for the North to discontinue its nuclear activities. Japan’s finance minister, Shoichi Nakagawa, called the American decision “extremely regrettable.?

In a press conference Sunday, Kim Sook, South Korea’s main nuclear envoy, expressed his support for the deal.

“We welcome the agreement because we believe this will help put the six-party negotiations back on track and eventually lead to the dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear programs,? he said.