- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 28, 2009

VIENNA, Austria | Two men with differing visions for the International Atomic Energy Agency failed Friday to win enough support to become its new chief, splitting the vote among the agency’s developed and developing countries.

A meeting of the agency’s 35-nation board was adjourned prematurely after neither Yukiya Amano of Japan nor Abdul Samad Minty of South Africa got the required two-thirds majority needed for victory.

With an inconclusive initial attempt to find a successor for IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, board Chairwoman Taous Feroukhi of Algeria was expected Monday to invite member nations to submit - or resubmit - candidates within the next four weeks before a new meeting.

“The slate of candidates is considered to have been wiped clean,” she told reporters.

That meant that Mr. Amano and Mr. Minty could try again - something the South African reserved judgment on in comments after the end of the secret balloting.

But a Western diplomat familiar with Mr. Amano’s intentions said the 61-year-old Japanese had already said he would run in any new race if this week’s meeting failed to settle the issue of Mr. ElBaradei’s successor.

He asked for anonymity because his information was confidential.

Mr. Amano, generally endorsed by Western and like-minded nations that represent a majority on the board, led throughout six rounds of voting over two days, in one instance falling short of the threshold by only one vote. But he failed to win support with developing nations, most of whom endorsed Mr. Minty.

Mr. Minty, 69, expressed disappointment. In comments tinged with reproach, he suggested that Western nations had missed an opportunity to bridge differences with developing countries by failing to endorse his candidacy.

“We were hopeful that those that advocated change and a relationship with the developing world based on trust and partnership would - in this important election process - have implemented these noble ideas,” he said. “Sadly, it appears as this has only remained as good intentions.”

Mr. ElBaradei said he hoped that a consensus choice could be found.

“I just hope that the agency has [a] candidate acceptable to all - north, south, east, west - because that is needed,” he said.

Only one of the four men who have headed the IAEA since its establishment 52 years ago has gathered enough support to be elected outright without the need for a second board session.

The new IAEA head will face the immediate challenge of handling the purported covert nuclear activities of Iran and Syria. While the Obama administration has said it is ready to break with its predecessor and talk directly to Iran over the nuclear impasse, Washington still wants an IAEA head sympathetic to Washington - an ideal Mr. ElBaradei did not always fulfill.

That view of Mr. ElBaradei also plays a role in the divide over a successor.

Before the voting, the United States and its allies had made clear, without publicly saying so, that they favor Mr. Amano over Mr. Minty because Washington sees the Japanese as someone who would be content to manage the IAEA without thrusting himself into the political fray.

Washington unsuccessfully lobbied in 2005 to block Mr. ElBaradei’s appointment to another four-year term because his statements on Iraq and Iran were peppered with barely disguised criticisms of U.S. policy.

Support for Mr. Amano from the United States and other Western countries was to an extent less because he was the ideal candidate and more “because of fears that Minty would become a second ElBaradei,” the diplomat said.

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