U.N. Nuke Chief Wins 3rd Term

Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohamed ElBaradei waits for the start of a meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation board of governors that will review Iran's record of working with the agency, on Monday, June 14, 2004 at Vienna's International Center. (AP Photo/Rudi Blaha)
Key members of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency reappointed Mohammed ElBaradei for a third term as head of the organization Monday after the Bush administration last week publicly dropped its opposition to him.

Washington had accused ElBaradei of being too mild on Iran and of trying to obstruct the invasion of Iraq by questioning U.S intelligence that asserted Saddam Hussein had a nuclear arms program.

Still, consensus approval of ElBaradei as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency as delayed for several hours because of arguments over procedure.

The dispute surfaced after the Japanese chief delegate, Yukio Takasu, opposed making the reappointment the first item of the conference on what he said were procedural grounds. It was not immediately clear why Japan made the move.

Egypt was a key backer of having ElBaradei's reconfirmation as the first order of the day at the Vienna meeting, and that gave rise to speculation Japan was retaliating for Cairo's role in obstructing the adoption of an agenda for more than two weeks at last month's conference on nuclear proliferation in New York.

But Jun Miura, a foreign ministry official in Tokyo, said the Japanese envoy's actions were aimed only at "making the meeting proceed smoothly" and denied suggestions of Japan retaliation. "That is completely false," Miura said, when asked about the speculation.

On the IAEA's upcoming agenda item of Iran, diplomats said the Islamic republic will be mildly criticized for not fully cooperating of an IAEA investigation of its activities. But they said Tehran also will come in for some praise, with a senior IAEA official planning to tell the agency's board that the country has kept its promise of freezing a key program that could be used to make nuclear arms.

The diplomats described the report on Iran — likely to be delivered Tuesday or Wednesday by IAEA Deputy Director General Pierre Goldschmidt — as relatively mild, compared with previous summaries since Tehran's nuclear program became a matter of international concern three years ago.