ElBaradei unchallenged for third term at IAEA
* No new candidates stepped forward for nomination
* Unlikely Washington can secure enough votes to block re-election
VIENNA: Mohamed ElBaradei will run unchallenged for a third term as head of the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Saturday, despite Washington’s campaign to oust him.
ElBaradei, an Egyptian lawyer, recently announced he would seek re-election as director general of the agency he has headed since 1997. No other candidates came forward before the deadline for nominations at the turn of the year, the IAEA said. “No new candidates were submitted for the position of director general,” IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said.
Some US and other countries’ officials have privately complained that ElBaradei was not only soft on Iraq and Iran, but had also withheld information from the IAEA board of governors that could boost the US campaign to refer Iran to the UN Security Council for economic sanctions.
ElBaradei says there is no clear proof that Washington is right and Iran is seeking the bomb — an allegation that Tehran denies. But he has repeatedly said the jury was still out.
Countries on the IAEA’s 35-nation board of governors will attempt to reach a common position before deciding whether to re-elect ElBaradei. Diplomats say that could take several months given Washington’s opposition to ElBaradei.
However, Washington’s efforts to oust him were damaged last month by allegations that the United States had access to wiretaps on ElBaradei’s telephone.
The Washington Post reported in December that US officials had been combing through intercepted phone conversations between ElBaradei and Iranian officials for evidence of mistakes that could be used to force his ouster.
US officials have said they can block ElBaradei’s re-election but diplomats have said it is unlikely Washington could now muster the 12 votes on the 35-nation IAEA board needed to block ElBaradei’s re-election.
The administration of US President George W Bush has a long history of dissatisfaction with ElBaradei, which began with his refusal to back US allegations that Saddam Hussein had revived his clandestine atom bomb programme. reuetrs