Japan’s Amano takes office as IAEA head, succeeding Egypt’s ElBaradei

Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano took office Tuesday as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency for a four-year term, succeeding Mohamed ElBaradei of Egypt.

Amano said at the beginning of his first staff meeting in the IAEA headquarters in Vienna that he would like to do his best as the agency's chief on such issues as nonproliferation of nuclear weapons and enhancing nuclear security while ''addressing the energy need, providing good health care and water management.''

Amano said he expressed his intention ''to be an impartial, reliable and professional director general'' with the help of his staff.

Referring to the latest developments on issues related to Iran's nuclear program, he said, ''The situation surrounding the agency is storming now.''

Amano, 62, is the first Asian head of the Vienna-based nuclear watchdog, which is an organization of the United Nations.

In early July, Amano, who was Japan's ambassador to the Permanent Mission to the International Organizations in Vienna at that time, was elected ElBaradei's successor.

As IAEA director general, Amano will be required to cope with Iranian and North Korean nuclear development issues and also to promote peaceful uses of atomic energy in various fields, such as medication.

Amano assumed the post as the international community is moving toward a nuclear-free world after U.S. President Barack Obama laid out a vision in April for a world without nuclear weapons.

Talks between Iran and the IAEA have hit a snag as European countries and the United States are poised to take fresh economic sanctions against Iran, which was found in September to have built a second uranium enrichment facility.

Iran has refused to accept an IAEA proposal to send low-enriched uranium out of Iran.

The IAEA's 35-member policymaking body, the Board of Governors, adopted a set of resolutions on Nov. 27 seeking a halt to construction of the new facility.

But Iran says it plans to build 10 more uranium enrichment plants.

The IAEA has been unable to engage on issues related to North Korea's nuclear development since April when Pyongyang kicked out the IAEA's monitoring staff from its Yongbyon nuclear facility.

Amano, who joined Japan's Foreign Ministry in 1972, chaired the IAEA Board of Governors meetings between 2005 and 2006. He was Japan's ambassador to the Permanent Mission to the International Organizations in Vienna between 2005 and August 2009.

He served as Japan's ambassador in charge of nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear energy between August and November this year.

(Distributed by Kyodo News on Dec. 1, 2009)