North Korea invites chief UN nuclear inspector

Pyongyang's main nuclear envoy was preparing to visit the US within days, local media reported Saturday, a day after North Korea invited the chief UN atomic inspector to visit the country in a show of commitment to its recent pledge to take early steps to disarm. The North's invitation to Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, helped alleviate some misgivings that the unpredictable regime might backtrack on its Feb. 13 agreement to shut down and disable its nuclear facilities. On Friday in Vienna, ElBaradei offered few details about his upcoming trip to the isolated communist regime but other agency officials said it would likely occur in the second week of March. North Korea kicked IAEA monitors out in late 2002, at the beginning of the current nuclear standoff, withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and reactivating its mothballed nuclear program that led to its first-ever atomic weapons test in October.