Watchdog role not enough for IAEA: new chief Amano


Vienna : The International Atomic Energy Agency’s next head Yukiya Amano Monday stressed that the IAEA must balance its dual role in nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear energy.

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“Merely being a ‘nuclear watchdog’ does not suffice,” the Japanese diplomat said at the annual IAEA general conference shortly after he was appointed to succeed Mohamed ElBaradei from December.

The meeting of all IAEA member states unanimously approved Amano, who in June had narrowly won the majority at the agency’s governing board after a protracted election process.

“The spread of nuclear weapons and nuclear terrorism is an increasing threat for the international community,” owing to the ease with which technology advances and knowledge spreads, Amano said.

The 62-year-old diplomat who until recently served as ambassador to the IAEA called on countries to fully cooperate with the IAEA’s inspection regime.

“Having conducted inspection activities for over six years, the IAEA has not yet come to the conclusion whether the activities of Iran has been and is exclusively for a peaceful purpose,” Amano told reporters.

But Amano made clear he also intended to focus on promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy in the fields of electricity, medicine, food production and other areas.

“Nuclear power generation can be an option to meet the increasing needs of energy without emitting significant amounts of green house gas,” he said.

The statement seemed addressed especially to developing countries among the IAEA member states, who were sceptical about the nomination of Amano as a candidate by industrialized countries.

Turning to the future, Amano expressed hope that the IAEA would one day play a role in verifying nuclear disarmament, a topic personally important to him, as his native country experienced atomic bomb attacks at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

In his last address to the general conference, ElBaradei said of Amano: “I trust that he will lead the agency with vision, impartiality and courage.”

The outgoing Egyptian IAEA chief is set to retire at the end of November after 12 years in office.

Diplomats expect Amano to take on a more low-level approach to the post of director general than ElBaradei, who is known for speaking out about wide-ranging issues including poverty and global peace, and for lobbying for nuclear disarmament.

Amano said he sees himself as the IAEA’s “chief administrative officer,” acting under the authority of the governing board.

Born in 1947, Amano joined Japan’s foreign ministry in 1972 and rose through its ranks as an expert on nuclear issues.

Before coming to Vienna in 2005, he headed his ministry’s disarmament, non-proliferation and science department.