IAEA leadership race narrows to 3

The leadership race to succeed UN atomic agency Chief Mohamed ElBaradei narrowed today after Belgium’s Jean-Pol Poncelet withdrew his candidacy from a vote diplomats fear could result in deadlock.
The governing body of the International Atomic Energy Agency has been struggling for months to agree on a new chief to tackle the spread of nuclear arms capability, with North Korea and Iran top of its list of concerns, Reuter`s reports.
Past votes have split down rich-poor lines on the IAEA’s 35-nation governing board.
Poncelet, 59, a former Belgian deputy premier and now executive at French nuclear group Areva, finished last, along with Slovenia’s Ernest Petric, among five contenders in a straw poll last month.
 Petric quit the race earlier this week. Both men cited their withdrawals were aimed at achieving a consensus candidate who could win the vote.
However, Petric and many diplomats believe no one in the remaining field looks capable of winning a 2/3 majority in the IAEA’s governing board and bridging a schism between developing and industrialized nations over the agency’s coming priorities.
Tomorrow`s election will be the second since March, when Japanese IAEA Ambassador Yukiya Amano fell one vote short of the 24 needed for victory.
Amano remains the favourite but his backing slid to 20 in the test poll.
His main rival, South African IAEA governor Abdul Samad Minty, took 11, while a late contender from Spain, Luis Echavarri, got four votes.
Amano draws backing mainly from industrialized nations and Minty from developing states while Echavarri, a nuclear safety expert, has depicted himself as a broad compromise candidate.
ElBaradei, 66, a Nobel Peace laureate in 2005, will retire in November after 12 years in office.