April 2, 2009 / 5:07 AM / 10 years ago

Malaysia endorses candidate for IAEA chief - min

KUALA LUMPUR, April 2 (Reuters) - Malaysia’s government endorsed the country’s atomic energy board chief as a candidate for the U.N. nuclear watchdog director-general’s post, a minister said on Thursday.

Malaysia will put forward Noramly Muslim, chairman of the Malaysian Atomic Energy Licensing Board, after the International Atomic Energy Agency’s board of governers failed to agree on a sucessor to Mohamed ElBaradei last week.

“Yes, Professor Dr Noramly Muslim is officially endorsed by the Malaysian government (for the post),” Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Maximus Ongkili told Reuters in a mobile phone text message. He declined to give further details.

Noramly, who has researched the impact of nuclear technology in developing countries, was IAEA’s deputy director-general for technical cooperation in the late 1980s.

He has argued for Malaysia to start using nuclear energy to generate electricity much sooner than its 2020 target as the Southeast Asian country’s oil reserves are getting depleted.

Malaysia’s endorsement of Noramly comes after the two original candidates — South Africa’s Abdul Samad Minty and Japan’s Yukiya Amano — were not seen as broad-based enough to replace ElBaradei, who steps down in November this year.

Board chairman Algeria has invite fresh nominations to be submitted within four weeks. Another election will be held in May just in time for the Board’s meeting the following month.

Delegations want to avoid a prolonged, divisive succession battle given the challenges facing the IAEA. But because of the job’s sensitive nuclear security mandate and divisions between member states, there is a desire for a consensus candidate.

The IAEA Director General oversees a global inspectorate that seeks to detect and deter covert diversions of nuclear energy to bomb-making and to promote peaceful uses of the atom, in keeping with the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

He authors technical but politically charged reports on IAEA investigations into alleged proliferation activity. Iran and Syria are currently under scrutiny. North Korea, Libya and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq were subject to earlier investigations. (Reporting by Niluksi Koswanage; Editing by Sugita Katyal)

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