Belgian quits IAEA chief race

VIENNA: Belgian candidate Jean-Pol Poncelet pulled out of the race to succeed Mohamed ElBaradei as head of the UN atomic watchdog on Wednesday, leaving only three candidates still in the running.

International Atomic Energy Agency spokesman Ayhan Evrensel confirmed that

Belgium had sent a letter to the agency saying that Poncelet would not stand in a formal

vote by the agency’s 35-member board of governors on Thursday.

Poncelet had been put forward by Belgium as a candidate in April.

But in a statement issued in Brussels

today, the Belgian government said it had “informed the board of governors of the agency of the request of Mr Poncelet not to take into consideration his candidature at the occasion of the vote scheduled to take place on July 2.” His decision to drop out was aimed “at facilitating consensus-building within the board on the

important and urgent decision to nominate a successor to the outgoing director general,” the statement read.

“It is the strong desire of Mr Poncelet that the board will be able to arrive at a satisfactory outcome at its upcoming meeting. In the unfortunate case that this would not be possible, Mr Poncelet confirms that he remains at the disposal of board members for any further consultation that they may deem appropriate.” Already on Tuesday, Slovenian candidate Ernest Petric had similarly withdrawn his candidacy.

Both had been widely expected to drop out after they received no votes in a non-binding straw poll – aimed at gauging individual support for the five different candidates – earlier this month. In that poll on June 9, Japanese ambassador to the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, held the lead, winning 20 votes out of 35, followed by close rival South African ambassador Abdul Samad Minty with 11 votes.