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U.S. opposes third term for IAEA chief

Elise Labott
CNN Washington Bureau

Mohammed ElBaradei is seeking a third term as the head of the IAEA.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
State Department

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration is opposing the re-appointment of Mohammed ElBaradei as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The U.S. opposition relates to an informal agreement among nations contributing to U.N. agencies that limits the top posts in those organizations to two terms, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Monday.

ElBaradei's second term ends next summer, but he has said he plans to run for a third term.

"Our view has always been two terms is enough," Boucher said, adding that the policy of two terms for such organizations "has been applied very consistently by the United States," Boucher said.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that U.S. intelligence had taped conversations between ElBaradei and Iranian officials in an alleged attempt to discredit the Egyptian-born IAEA chief, who has served at the IAEA's director-general since 1997. (Full story)

The U.S. has complained ElBaradei has been too soft with Iraq, and has clashed with him over weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. ElBaradei balked at U.S. claims that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted WMD.

The United States must win the support of 12 nations on the IAEA's 35-member Board of Governors to block ElBaradei's re-election, but its influence with the board has been limited. To date the U.S. has been unsuccessful in persuading the board to take a tough line with Iran.

Boucher did not back a specific individual to take ElBaradei's place.

"We'll see who the candidates are and we'll make our decisions accordingly," Boucher said.

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