* Argentina holds off on pushing challenger to Yukiya Amano
* Amano presents himself as technical, not political actor
* Future of Iran deal policed by IAEA uncertain under Trump
By Francois Murphy and Shadia Nasralla
VIENNA, Dec 21 The U.N. nuclear watchdog's
chief, Yukiya Amano, will secure a third term in office since
his most likely challenger has chosen not to run against him,
according to diplomats who follow the Vienna-based agency.
Amano, a 69-year-old career diplomat from Japan, has headed
the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) since 2009. He
said in September he would seek to stay on, emphasizing the
importance of continuity in policing Iran's nuclear deal with
major powers, among other issues.
"There will be no other candidate," a Western diplomat said
on condition of anonymity, adding that Amano enjoys broad
support. "It's a done deal."
Amano was expected to be challenged by Argentine diplomat
Rafael Grossi, a Vienna veteran who recently chaired the Nuclear
Suppliers Group, an export control body. But with an end-of-year
deadline for bids approaching, he had bowed out, diplomats said.
Argentina has decided to wait until the end of what would be
Amano's third term, in 2021, to put Grossi forward as a
candidate, another diplomat familiar with the matter said.
Grossi was not immediately available for comment.
Amano was first elected by the IAEA's 35-nation Board of
Governors with the support of Western countries looking for a
more pliant successor to Mohamed ElBaradei of Egypt, who
frequently clashed with U.S. officials over Iran.
ElBaradei and the IAEA were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in
2005, two years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Officials
from the George W. Bush administration, which was in power at
the time, accused ElBaradei of being too lenient towards Iran.
Amano, a more low-key figure known for his guarded
statements, regularly emphasizes that the IAEA's work is
technical, striking a deliberate contrast with ElBaradei's more
Diplomats say he has established himself as a competent
leader through episodes like the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear
disaster in Japan - a tough test for the IAEA, which is tasked
both with nuclear safety and with promoting nuclear energy.
He has also overseen inspections of Iran's nuclear
programme, a role that continues under the landmark deal with
major powers reached last year, which restricts Iran's atomic
activities in exchange for the lifting of sanctions against it.
With U.S. President-elect Donald Trump - a vocal critic of
the deal - due to take office next month and his future policy
towards Iran uncertain, many see the need for a safe pair of
"Amano does not generate any enthusiasm but is seen as a
figure that does not rock the boat," said one diplomat who is
critical of him.
Amano's second four-year term runs until November. The Board
of Governors is due to meet during the year to elect the next
(Writing by Francois Murphy; Editing by Tom Heneghan)