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Monday, 6 July 2009

IAEA chief: 'No hard evidence Iran seeking nukes'

There is no concrete evidence that Iran is attempting to develop nuclear weapons, incoming International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano said Friday, in his first public comments on Iran's nuclear program.

"I don't see any evidence in IAEA official documents about this," Yukiya Amano told Reuters.

Asked on his approach to dealing with countries such as Iran and Syria, Amano said: "I'm not going to be a 'soft' director general or a 'tough' director general."

Amano won 23 of the votes at IAEA headquarters in Vienna Thursday, beating out South Africa's candidate Abdul Samad Minty. One delegate abstained from the vote and the remaining eleven voted for Minty.

While officially Israel had no comment on the development, privately, government sources said Amano was Israel's preferred candidate.

"We hope now that our relationship with the IAEA will be less tense, that the unnecessary friction with the IAEA will disappear, and that we can return to full cooperation," one government source said.

He also said the expectation in Jerusalem was that Amano would be more "neutral" than ElBaradei was when it came to Israel's concerns.

While Amano and Minty were believed to have equivalent technical expertise for the job, South Africa's relationship with Iran is very problematic from an Israeli perspective. For instance, in 2006, when the IAEA finally decided to report Iran to the UN Security Council, South Africa was one of five countries, alongside Libya, Algeria, Indonesia and Belarus, that abstained.

Amano, 62, appealed for "solidarity of all member states," and touched on the devastation US atom bombs wreaked on his country in pledging to do his utmost to prevent the spread of nuclear arms. His allusions to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki pointed to a deep commitment to non-proliferation.

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