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IAEA Elects New Chief

The International Atomic Energy Agency has elected a Japanese diplomat to replace outgoing Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei. The new chief faces a tough tenure, with challenges ranging from North Korea to Iran and Syria.

After failing to agree on a new head earlier this year, the 35-nation board of the International Atomic Energy Agency selected Yukiya Amano of Japan to succeed current chief Mohamed ElBaradei of Egypt who steps down in November.

During a board meeting in Vienna, Amano was elected after six rounds of voting that pitted him against Abdul Samad Minty of South Africa in a ballot that roughly reflected divisions between developed and developing nations. The final vote was 23 to 11, with one abstension.

Earlier, Amano told journalists that he would work hard if he became the agency's next director-general.

"Just today, let me say that if I have the privilege of being elected as the director-general of the IAEA, I will do my utmost to enhance the welfare of the human beings, [and] ensure sustainable development through the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Also, as a national coming from Japan, I will do my utmost to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. In order to do that, solidarity of all the member states, countries from north, from south, from east and west is absolutely necessary," he said.

All 145 IAEA member states must formally appoint Amano. That is expected to happen on Friday. Then, the agency's general conference must approve Amano's selection when it convenes in September.

ElBaradei sparked controversy during his 12 years as director-general. He and the IAEA were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. But ElBaradei has been criticized for allegedly politicizing the position and for not taking a harder stand against Iran.

Analysts say Amado has a formidable task ahead of him. Among other challenges, the IAEA is seeking to reign in nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, and shed more light on nuclear activities in Syria.