Yukiya Amano, chief of global nuclear watchdog, dead at 72

Posted at 6:19 AM, Jul 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-22 08:19:23-04

Yukiya Amano, the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has died at the age of 72, the agency said in a statement Monday.

Amano led the UN nuclear watchdog for a decade, overseeing the agency through the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster and the tense negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.

“The Secretariat of the International Atomic Energy Agency regrets to inform with deepest sadness of the passing away of Director General Yukiya Amano,” said the IAEA statement, adding that flags at its Vienna office would be lowered to half-mast.

Amano played a key role in the years-long talks that eventually led to the signing of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Action Plan between Iran and the United States, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom.

Under the landmark deal, Iran agreed to drastically limit its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

The agreement — or what is left of it following President Donald Trump’s 2018 decision to ditch it — is at the center of the current diplomatic and military tensions between Iran and the Western powers.

The US Ambassador to International Organizations in Vienna, Jackie Wolcott, said Amano was “an exceptional public servant.”

“Director General Amano was greatly respected as an effective leader, diplomat, and true gentleman,” Wolcott said. “I consider myself lucky to have known and worked with such a statesman,” she added.

Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said Amano was “a man of extraordinary dedication (and) professionalism, always at the service of the global community in the most impartial way.”

Amano was set to serve as the head of the agency until 2021. According to the agency, he had decided to step down from the post because of an undisclosed illness.