U.N. nuclear chief Amano has no rivals for new term

VIENNA, Jan 7 (Reuters) - U.N. nuclear chief Yukiya Amano, a
key figure in international diplomacy on Iran's disputed nuclear
work, is set to win another four-year term as he faces no rivals
for the post.

A letter from the chairman of the 35-nation governing board
of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to member
states of the U.N. agency, dated Jan. 7, said no other
candidates had come forward by a Dec. 31 deadline.

It means Amano, who has taken a tougher approach on the Iran
nuclear file than his predecessor Mohamed ElBaradei, will almost
certainly be reappointed as director general without problems,
in contrast to his close election victory in 2009.

"I wish to inform you that I have received no nominations
and that, consequently, Mr Amano is the only candidate," said
the letter from Canadian envoy John Barrett, seen by Reuters.

Barrett indicated that he aimed for a formal decision to
reappoint Amano, a veteran Japanese diplomat, at the board's
next meeting in early March.

Western diplomats are generally happy with the way he has
stepped up pressure on Iran to stop stonewalling an agency
investigation into suspected atom bomb research, even if that
push has yet to bear fruit.

But the Vienna-based U.N. watchdog's relations with Tehran,
which denies Western accusations that it is seeking to develop
the capability to produce nuclear weapons, have become
increasingly strained since Amano took office on Dec. 1, 2009.

Under Amano, the IAEA was criticised in 2011 for a perceived
slow initial response to Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster, but
later led international efforts to agree an action plan to
improve global reactor safety.

In 2009, supported largely by industrialised nations, Amano
defeated South Africa's Abdul Samad Minty in a sixth round of
balloting after five inconclusive votes.

(Reporting by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)