UN atomic watchdog chief against politicizing agency

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UN atomic watchdog chief Yukiya Amano defended himself against suggestions that he had taken a tougher line against Iran than his predecessor, in an interview with French radio Saturday.

"I am against the politicization of the agency," Amano told Radio France Internationale.

The International Atomic Energy Agency "is an institution dealing with technical activities that involve political aspects."

"It is not about being more or less conciliatory" towards Iran, Amano said, who served as Japan's ambassador to the IAEA before being selected as its director general in July 2009.

He followed on from a 12-year stint under Mohamed ElBaradei, who was constantly criticised in some quarters, for allegedly being too soft on Iran and of overstepping his mandate as head of a purely technical agency.

Western powers have demanded that Iran suspend its uranium enrichment programme, fearing that Tehran would use the material to build a nuclear bomb. Tehran insists that its atomic program is a peaceful drive to produce energy.

In the radio interview, Amano said he also planned to contact Israeli authorities directly, in a bid to persuade them to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Asked whether he would go to Israel, the IAEA chief said it was possible.

Israel is widely believed to have nuclear weapons, but it maintains a policy of refusing either to deny or acknowledge its nuclear arsenal.

The agency chief also said that developing countries should have access to civil nuclear energy and the IAEA "can help them to strengthen or set up nuclear infrastructure."

© 2010 AFP

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