UN atomic agency fails to agree on new chief
The UN atomic watchdog reopened the race for its new director general on Friday after neither of the two previous candidates won sufficient votes for victory.
Member states of the International Atomic Energy Agency now have four weeks to nominate new candidates, with a new election expected some time in May.
"The slate of candidates is considered to have been wiped clean," the chairwoman of the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-member board, Taous Feroukhi, told reporters after a crunch vote between Yukiya Amano of Japan or Abdul Samad Minty of South Africa produced no clear winner.
"Neither candidate was able to enjoy the two-thirds majority" needed, Feroukhi said.
A note would therefore be officially circulated to member states next Monday, giving them 28 days to present new candidates.
Japan and South Africa could, if they so chose, "re-nominate their two candidates," Feroukhi said.
Minty left it open whether he would stand again.
"South Africa, in consultation with those that supported us, will evaluate the results of this election process to enable a decision as to what course of action we need to take to facilitate the election of a new director general," Minty told the closed-door session.
A senior official from the Japanese foreign ministry told Japanese reporters that Amano would run again.
The race to take over the IAEA's highly sensitive nuclear dossiers of Syria and Iran from current director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, already looked inconclusive on Thursday.
Frontrunner Amano, 61, failed to secure the necessary two-thirds majority in the first stage, even losing ground to Minty, 69, as the voting process progressed.
The second stage of voting on Friday proved similarly inconclusive, with Amano securing 22 yes votes, 12 no votes and one abstention, while Minty won just 15 yes votes, 19 no votes and one abstention.
The problem, Feroukhi said, was that neither had been able to bridge the gap between the industrialised and developing nations on the IAEA's deeply-divided 35-member board.
Amano had been perceived to be the preferred candidate of the west and Minty the favourite of developing nations.
Feroukhi said it was not yet clear whether the board would hold another extraordinary meeting on the matter before its regular June session.
"Supposing we get a consensus candidate, there will be no need to organise anything special," she said.
"But if this is not the case, then you have to take into account that agenda of the June Board is already very heavy, so I could not really mix the two. Then, I might be obliged to have a special board meeting," to enable the candidates take questions from member states, she said.
In the past, a number of names have been circulated as possible candidates, including the head of Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (POCWS), Argentinian Rogelio Pfirter, and Chile's ambassador to the IAEA, Milenko Skoknic.
In recent days, the Spanish director of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's nuclear energy agency, Luis Echavarri, has also been mooted.
Whoever takes over from ElBaradei, who steps down in November after heading the IAEA for the past 12 years, faces the daunting task of tackling Iran and Syria over alleged covert nuclear plans.
Both Amano and Minty have extensive experience in the fields of non-proliferation and disarmament. But critics say that Amano is a reserved technocrat lacking charisma, while Minty is perceived by some Western nations as too outspoken.
For his part ElBaradei has never shied from controversy and has locked horns in the past with Western capitals, and Washington in particular, over the role of the UN watchdog.
The United States has in turn accused him of being too "soft" on Iran and of overstepping his mandate.
The change of guard in the IAEA comes at a time when the agency is seeking a significant increase in funding from member states over the next two years in order to carry out its duties effectively.