Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Argentine loses top post in UN Atomic Energy Agency dealing with Iran

Argentina’s Rafael Grossi has resigned as assistant director-general of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), sparking speculation as to whether his exit might be linked to Argentina’s agreement earlier this year with Iran.

Grossi is expected to leave his post in the early European summer to become Argentina’s envoy to the IAEA.

The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that the Argentine diplomat, who has an ambassador status and is also IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano’s cabinet chief, had handed in his resignation and that the “timing of his departure will be defined very soon.”

The Argentine diplomat, who will be this week in Buenos Aires addressing CARI (Argentine Council for International Relations)’s Nuclear Committee, played a key role in IAEA talks with Tehran, whose controversial nuclear program has been at the forefront of agency attention in recent years.
While Amano insisted via a spokeswoman that Grossi’s departure would not change policy “including the ongoing negotiations with Iran,” other sources were divided on whether it was a sign of internal agency tension or not.

His surprise resignation coincides with an apparent deadlock in the Iran investigation with suspicions that Argentina’s recent rapprochement with the Islamic Republic might be a factor. The IAEA had been pushing since early last year to coax Iran into allowing its inspectors to restart a long-stalled investigation into suspected atomic bomb research.

With Iranian stonewalling widely blamed for the failure to come to an agreement (a charge Tehran denies), the UN agency has been under pressure to reconsider its tactics. The next round of talks with Iran is due on May 10.

Grossi is expected to leave his post in the early summer to become Argentina’s envoy to the IAEA. Argentina is a member of the UN agency’s 35-nation governing board.

Grossi is one of two senior IAEA officials who have been leading the agency’s efforts since early 2012 — so far in vain — to persuade Iran to give its inspectors access to sites, officials and documents for their inquiry.

His resignation means that both of them will leave the agency this year. The IAEA said last month that a senior Finnish official, Tero Varjoranta, would succeed chief IAEA nuclear inspector Herman Nackaerts when he retires in early autumn.

But analysts and diplomats stress that it is Amano who decides policy. He steered the agency into a tougher approach to Iran and secured a second four-year term in March.

Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a think tank in London, said Amano would not select replacements who “differed in substance” from Nackaerts and Grossi.
“The institutional norms and ways of doing business don’t easily change,” Fitzpatrick said.

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