Race Begins for Successor to Elbaradei at IAEA - Summary
Vienna - The race for the top post at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has started after director-general Mohamed ElBaradei said he will not seek a fourth term. According to an agency spokesman, IAEA board members were informed last week by ElBaradei that he would leave when his current term expires in November 2009.
The 66-year old diplomat, who has led the UN nuclear watchdog since 1997, received the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the IAEA in 2005.
So far Japan and South Africa have informed IAEA members that they would field candidates, according to several diplomats.
Yukiya Amano, currently Japan's ambassador to the United Nations in Vienna, is seeking to succeed ElBaradei. He held senior positions related to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament in the Japanese foreign ministry before being posted in Vienna.
South Africa's candidate is Abdul S. Minty, the country's representative to the IAEA board and chair of the South African Council for the Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Minty is known as a vocal nuclear disarmament advocate, as well as for insisting on the rights of all countries to access nuclear technology.
Diplomats have said the strong stance on nuclear disarmament of both candidate's countries would make it hard for the United States to support them.
During his tenure, ElBaradei has had several run-ins with the US. He angered the administration of George W Bush before the Iraq war by insisting he had not found evidence of a nuclear weapons programme by Saddam Hussein's government.
He also disagrees with the US State Department over the usefulness of sanctions for pushing Iran to give up its nuclear programme.
Earlier this year, diplomats in Vienna mentioned Rogelio Pfirter, the Argentinian head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Cehmical Weapons (OPCW) in the Hague, as another possible candidate.
Milenko Skoknic, the current chairman of the IAEA board, has proposed that candiates formally apply by the end of this year.
Skoknic, who is Chile's ambassador in Austria, has also been mentioned as a potential successor to ElBaradei.
After beginning his career in the Egyptian diplomatic service, ElBaradei joined the IAEA in Vienna as a legal expert. He became deputy director-general to his predecessor, Hans Blix, in 1991.