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Argentina’s Grossi tapped to lead IAEA

Rafael Mariano Grossi, Argentina’s ambassador to Austria, will become the sixth head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency.

WASHINGTON (AN) — Rafael Mariano Grossi, Argentina’s ambassador to Austria, will become the sixth head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog announced on Wednesday.

Grossi is set to take office for a four-year term as director general in early December, following his appointment by the agency’s board of governors. He takes over for Yukiya Amano of Japan, who passed away in July after serving for almost a decade in the post.

"I'm of course delighted that the members of the board of governors have given me very strong support," Grossi told reporters in Vienna.

The board's decision will be submitted for approval to the IAEA General Conference, which consists of representatives of all 171 member nations, IAEA said in a statement. It will meet for a special session on December 2.

A career diplomat with more than 35 years of professional experience in nonproliferation and disarmament, Grossi has been serving until now as Argentina’s ambassador to Vienna-based international organizations, including the IAEA.

At closed-door meetings of the board this month, Grossi beat out Lassina Zerbo of Burkina Faso and Cornel Feruta of Romania, who served as IAEA's acting director general after Amano died.

“The board has come together behind me,” the 58-year-old Grossi told a press conference in Vienna following the final round of voting. “The work of the agency is of the essence for international peace and security."

A sensitive time for IAEA

Grossi’s selection comes at a critical time for the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency. U.S. President Donald Trump last year withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in a move to apply maximum pressure to the Mideast regional power that could lead to regime change.

Since then, Trump has granted waivers for civilian projects, which the U.K. and other signatories want to maintain, according to the U.S. State Department. But the Trump administration's decision to renege on the deal and to reintroduce U.S. sanctions on Iran also inflamed transatlantic tensions.

The remaining signatories — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union — are standing by the deal, which lifted crippling economic sanctions on Iran and imposed enforceable limits on its nuclear program.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said last month his country would reduce its commitments to the 2015 accord, including an abandonment of  restrictions on nuclear research and development. The United States, meantime, welcomed Grossi's selection.

“We congratulate Ambassador Rafael Grossi of Argentina on his election as the next IAEA director deneral,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

“The United States strongly supports the IAEA in all aspects of its mission," it said, "and stands ready to assist Ambassador Grossi in ensuring that the agency is prepared to meet the growing challenges of the 21st century.”