The International Atomic Energy Agency chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, who has gained international prominence for his efforts to avert war in Iraq and press Iran and North Korea on their nuclear weapons ambitions, is seeking a third term as agency chief. Some key member countries are signaling they would like to see new blood. Mr. ElBaradei's second four-year term as IAEA chief does not expire for another year, but political wrangling over the position has already begun. The agency's Board of Governors is seeking nominations for the post.
IAEA Spokesman Mark Gwozdecky says this is a long process.
"The board agreed that December 31 would be the closing date for this submission of nominees for the post of director general," he said.
Mr. Gwozdecky says applicants will be considered next spring, and the successful candidate approved at the June board meeting and formally elected by the general conference in September 2005.
The 61-year-old Mr. ElBaradei, a respected international lawyer from Egypt, has held the post for the last seven years, and says he is interested in carrying on as director-general for a third term.
IAEA rules allow this, but diplomats say a group of western countries, including the United States, believes that two four-year terms for all top posts in major international organizations should be the limit.
Western diplomats say they do not oppose Mr. ElBaradei on personal grounds. The IAEA chief is said to have the support of China and a group of developing and non-aligned nations.
Mr. ElBaradei has become the face of the IAEA in recent years, as questions about the nuclear ambitions of Iraq, Iran and North Korea have moved to the forefront of international diplomacy. He and the agency have been mentioned in news reports as contenders for the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts.
The IAEA mission is to ensure the peaceful use of nuclear energy and to stop the diversion of nuclear technology to military purposes. The IAEA has 137 member countries, and its experts are active in using nuclear technology to help the poor in Africa and Asia. Gamma radiation, for example, has ensured that Zanzibar is free from the tsetse fly, and in Vietnam, IAEA scientists are helping with projects to produce a better quality of rice.
The director general of the IAEA is the chief administrative officer of the agency, and is responsible for the appointment and organization of staff.