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U.N. nuclear watchdog board backs chief Yukiya Amano for a third term

VIENNA The U.N. nuclear agency’s 35-nation Board of Governors on Wednesday backed the agency’s chief, Yukiya Amano, for a third term as director general after he ran unopposed on a platform of continuity in dealing with issues like Iran’s nuclear programme.

Amano, a 69-year-old career diplomat from Japan, has headed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) since 2009, including the years leading up to Iran’s nuclear agreement with major powers in 2015 and after the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in 2011.

The Board of Governors’ decision to reappoint Amano took place without a vote, meaning no country expressed opposition, diplomats said. It must be confirmed by a meeting of all IAEA member states in September, which is widely seen as a formality.

“Congrats to DG Amano on @iaeaorg reappointment – US is committed to cont. cooperation & supports him in the exercise of his mandate,” the U.S. mission to the United Nations in Vienna said on Twitter while the closed-door meeting was still happening.

Since most countries had backed Amano long before the board meeting, one of the few open questions had been where the United States stood, since it had yet to express a view publicly.

When he was first elected, Amano was backed by Western powers seeking a more pliant successor to Mohamed ElBaradei, who clashed with U.S. officials over Iran and was accused by the administration of George W. Bush of being too soft on Tehran.

ElBaradei was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with the IAEA in 2005, two years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Striking a deliberate contrast with ElBaradei’s more political style, Amano often emphasises the technical nature of the agency’s work, which includes policing the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities imposed by Tehran’s deal with major powers, which also lifts economic sanctions against Iran.

The man who had been most likely to challenge Amano, Argentine diplomat Rafael Grossi, decided not to run as the deadline for applications at the end of last year approached.

Amano has described Iran’s deal with six major powers as a “net gain” because it reduces Tehran’s nuclear activities and imposes more intrusive monitoring of those activities.

The Iran deal was one of the issues he discussed with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson when they met in Washington last week, but neither side said what view Tillerson had expressed on the agreement. U.S. President Donald Trump has called it “the worst deal ever negotiated”.

(Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Angus MacSwan)