Blix said he could not say for certain whether that had happened under Amano’s watch.
The IAEA would not comment on the criticisms, under a policy which avoids entering public debate.
Western diplomats in Vienna, where the IAEA has its headquarters, defended Amano’s management, pointing out that much of the material on weaponization had been previously raised when ElBaradei ran the agency, albeit in less detail, and was based on 1,000 pages of documentation.
“It is arguable that ElBaradei was a slightly more benefit-of-the-doubt operator than Amano,” one diplomat said. “He might have fretted more about making judgments on evidence because he didn’t have 100 percent confirmation. Amano says: ‘I don’t have 100 percent certainty, but it makes no sense saying nothing until a smoking gun is visible.’”
Some of the controversy around Amano’s management dates to his election in 2009, when he narrowly beat Abdul Minty, a South African diplomat who championed the interests of developing countries organized in the Non-Aligned Movement, in a campaign which became a geopolitical contest between North and South.
“Amano’s director-generalship began under a bad star,” said Mark Hibbs, a nuclear expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“The election was extremely polarized and bitter. Minty clearly appealed to states which see themselves as underdogs and have-nots. Amano was supported by the US and others who saw him as rolling back the IAEA’s political aspirations under ElBaradei to a more technical agency,” he said.
The acrid taste left by the election was heightened by the US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks that revealed Amano’s assiduous courting of US support. In an October 2009 cable, the US charge d’affaires, Geoffrey Pyatt, wrote: “Amano reminded [the] ambassador on several occasions that he would need to make concessions to the G-77 [the developing countries group], which correctly required him to be fair-minded and independent, but that he was solidly in the US court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.”
In an earlier cable in July that year, the Americans recount discussions with Amano on the future of officials, particular in EXPO, “some of whom have not always been helpful to US positions.”
Last year, the named officials were moved to other jobs, out of the inner core that drafts the quarterly reports, like the controversial one on Iran in November.
Hibbs argues that some degree of reorganization was desirable and inevitable, given the heated public battles under ElBaradei.
“Many states’ diplomats were appalled that a small number of officials in the two [IAEA] departments were at war with each other and at the extent they were prepared to use the media to get their points across,” he said.
Under Amano, internal debates have generally not leaked and he has centralized the organization, insisting that most public statements come from his office.
However, this has not stopped controversy from enveloping the agency, just as it did under ElBaradei. In the first major crisis of the Amano tenure, the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster following the Japanese tsunami a year ago, he was widely blamed for not acting quickly and aggressively enough.