Voting inconclusive so far in search for new I.A.E.A. chief

By Alan Cowell Published: March 26, 2009

PARIS: Officials from 35 nations failed in initial voting Thursday to choose a successor to Mohamed ElBaradei as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog.

Taous Feroukhi, chairwoman of the agency’s 35-member board of governors, said that neither of the two candidates had secured a two-thirds majority in the first three rounds of voting so ‘‘we were not able at this stage’’ to elect a successor to Mr. ElBaradei, whose term expires in November.

The outcome raised the possibility of a stalemate that could lead to new candidates.

(HH here: That would be a disaster. The Japanese guy is already the best we could hope for. I mean really, who would be more dedicated to making sure NO ONE used the damn things as weapons ever again? He is solidly in the lead. He should get the leadership.)

Only last week President Barack Obama offered a video message to Iran urging the leadership in Tehran to talk out its many differences with the United States — an offer that was swiftly rebuffed by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and other Iranian officials.

(HH: I keep telling my more conservative Friends that this reaching out is not naive at all. By putting countries like Iran in a corner by walking up with that Howdy Doody Grin of his and holding out his hand he makes THEM reject HIM. This frees up his possible responses considerably!! When the cruise missiles fly toward their nuclear facilities everyone in the world will see that it was IRAN that said they refused to talk.)

In the balloting Thursday, Yukiya Amano, 62, Japan’s ambassador to the organization, faced his South African counterpart, Abdul Samad Minty.

Under the organization’s rules, the winner needed 24 votes to secure a two-thirds majority.

But Ms. Feroukhi, who is from Algeria, said that in the first of three rounds Thursday Mr. Amano won 21 votes to Mr. Minty’s 14, while the margin in the second and third rounds was 20 to 15. Ms. Feroukhi was speaking to reporters in Vienna and her remarks were relayed by the I.A.E.A. on its Web site.

The agency’s rules provide for a second day of balloting Friday in which officials cast votes first for the leading candidate, and, if that ballot is inconclusive, for his rival. If neither wins, a new contest would be started from scratch.

(HH: That would really suck!!! Having someone outside the Europe-America/Islam conflict and from the only culture to have been on the receiving end is more than anyone could hope for!)

Both candidates are experienced diplomats and negotiators.

The choice of candidates reflects a division in the I.A.E.A. between those Western and industrialized nations that lead the nuclear club and see the atomic agency’s prime role as a watchdog (HH:in other words those who do not want ANYONE to EVER use the things again), and developing countries more interested in the broader use of nuclear energy. (HH:In other words the countries that have no clue that the bomb is anything more than a bigger popgun to threaten their neighbors with. They all feel that if countries like America can have them EVERYONE should have them. Atomic weapons do not level the playing field, too many players having them simply guarantees the playing field will be incinerated.)

Mr. Amano, depicted by experts as the candidate favored by the United States, favors a strict approach toward Iran, which Western countries contend is trying to build nuclear weapons.

Iran says that its nuclear program is purely for civilian purposes to generate energy.

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The proliferation chain that links North Korea and Iran


AP
THE final frontier is being assaulted by a couple of troubling pioneers. North Korean officials are boasting that they will soon launch a rocket that will lift a communications satellite into space. With this defiant spectacular, they seem to be cocking a snook at America, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia, who have been trying through six-party talks to curb North Korea’s equally vaunted nuclear-weapons efforts. Meanwhile, earlier in February, Iran—suspected of harbouring similar nuclear ambitions to North Korea’s, though it denies this—lifted its own small, supposedly home-made satellite into orbit too.

Both regimes trumpet their space prowess, and indeed such technological feats are not easy to achieve. But how do these “civilian” space efforts complement their terrestrial nuclear work? That is the question that deeply worries outsiders.

Quite simply, the technology needed to lift a satellite off the launch pad and shield it from damage on its way into space is indistinguishable from that needed to launch a far-flying nuclear-tipped ballistic missile.

… Kim Jong Il’s regime claims to have first embarked on its space adventures in 1998, when it launched a Taepodong-1 rocket over an alarmed Japan, across the Pacific towards a startled America. Mr Kim even issued a stamp to celebrate what was said to have been the successful launch of a satellite that had since been warbling patriotic tunes back from space. Oddly, no one else ever picked up its signal. A failed missile test, concluded America, after watching the rocket plop down in the Pacific.

Whether the satellite was a figment of Mr Kim’s imagination hardly matters. The latest promised test-launch will violate resolution 1718, which bans North Korea from all such activity. This was passed by the United Nations Security Council in 2006, unusually with China’s backing, after North Korea first tried (but failed) to launch a still more capable missile and then conducted what is thought to have been its first nuclear test. Its determination now to carry on launching regardless has led to speculation in some quarters that the missile, assuming it launches successfully, could even be shot down by the new ballistic-missile defences that Japan and America have been frantically cobbling together to protect Japan from North Korea’s missile threats.

…The North Korean media claim, not for the first time, that the two Koreas are at “the brink of war”, and that America is preparing a pre-emptive strike against the North.

Certainly Mr Kim is determined to look as threatening as possible. Writing in the Washington Post on February 19th, Selig Harrison, who is a frequent visitor to North Korea, said that the foreign-ministry and defence officials he talked to recently had left him with the impression that North Korea’s stash of plutonium (which is exhibit-A in the six-party talks, though there are lingering concerns that Mr Kim has also dabbled in enriched uranium, another possible bomb ingredient) had already been “weaponised”—that is, converted into missile warheads.

If that is the case, then North Korea’s “satellite” test will be doubly alarming. Although the 2006 nuclear test was thought to have fizzled, it may nonetheless have helped North Korea master a design for the sort of smaller warhead that a missile could carry.

Strutting its stuff
North Korea is evidently quite happy to brandish its bombs. It flounced out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty back in 2003 after evidence emerged that it had been cheating on an earlier denuclearisation deal with America. Iran, by contrast, claims to be an NPT member in good standing. It insists that it has no use for nuclear weapons, and that all its nuclear activities, including a uranium-enrichment effort that continues to expand in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions and sanctions, are entirely peaceful in intent; the uranium, it says, is simply intended to fuel a future fleet of power stations.

Nothing if not brazen, it claims backhanded vindication in a controversial National Intelligence Estimate by America’s spooks, which concluded a little over a year ago that Iran had indeed had a bomb programme, but that it had stopped in 2003 when its formerly secret uranium activities came to light. But what that report failed to explain clearly was that Iran was continuing work quite openly on the two other necessary components of a weapons programme: first, uranium enrichment (with a bit of time and redirection of piping, low-enriched uranium can easily be turned into the highly enriched sort needed for a bomb) and efforts to produce plutonium; and second, the efforts under way for the development of a missile that could carry a nuclear warhead.