, VIENNA, Sept 14 – The International Atomic Energy Agency on Monday formally appointed Yukiya Amano of Japan as its new director general from December 1, amid the stalemate over Iran’s disputed nuclear ambitions.
Amano, 62, refused to give any indication as to how he might kick-start the IAEA’s stymied investigation into Tehran’s nuclear programme, but insisted that dialogue was the only way forward.
"This is a great day for me," Amano said of his new post at a news briefing.
Coming from the only country in the world to have experienced an atomic bomb placed him in a special position, the diplomat said, but stressed: "I will not work for Japan, I will work for the interests of the international community."
The 150 member states of the UN nuclear watchdog approved Amano — who has been Tokyo’s ambassador to the IAEA — by acclamation on the first day of the agency’s annual week-long general conference
He will succeed Mohamed ElBaradei who is stepping down at the end of November after 12 years in office.
Amano was chosen by the IAEA’s 35-member board of governors — its main decision-making body — in July, but his appointment had to formally be adopted by all member states.
The change in leadership comes at a crucial time for the agency which, despite six years of intensive investigations, is still not in a position to ascertain the true nature of Tehran’s atomic drive.
The West accuses the Islamic regime of seeking to build an atomic bomb under the guise of a civilian nuclear programme, a charge which Tehran strenuously denies.
Earlier, Iran and six major world powers agreed to hold talks on October 1 at a still unspecified venue to try to resolve the long-running standoff.
Speaking on the conference sidelines, US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu described the upcoming talks as "an important first step, one hopes for the best."
For his part, Amano refused to make any concrete statements about Iran.
"I’m not yet responsible for the operation," he said, noting that ElBaradei was still in charge.
"I will not make comment on the current operation," Amano insisted.
But he did share the view that the only way to break the current deadlock was through talks.
"I believe dialogue is very important, not only in nuclear issues, but in everything," he said.
"Unfortunately, the process is not going smoothly now, (but) I sincerely hope that there will be a good framework of dialogue" in the case of Iran.
Amano, whose initial four-year term runs until end-November 2013, also hailed the work of his predecessor, expressing "profound respect to Dr Mohamed ElBaradei for his outstanding contribution to the agency during his 12-year tenure.
"His tireless efforts and selfless dedication towards world peace and prosperity through the activities of the IAEA will undoubtedly be remembered," Amano said.
ElBaradei, 67, has frequently come under fire, particularly from the United States, for being too soft on Iran.
In his own address, the Egyptian reiterated his call on Iran to "engage substantively with the agency" to clarify allegations that it had been engaged in nuclear weapon studies.
"A number of questions and allegations that cast doubt on the peaceful nature of (Iran’s civilian nuclear) programme are still outstanding," ElBaradei said.
"Addressing the concerns of the international community about Iran’s future intentions is primarily a matter of confidence-building, which can only be achieved through dialogue. I therefore welcome the offer of the US to initiate a dialogue with Iran, without preconditions and on the basis of mutual respect.
"It is my hope that such a dialogue will begin as soon as possible."