UAE elected to seat on board of IAEA, world's nuclear watchdog

Emirates' transparency has been the key to selection to atomic body, while Iran misses out after being strongly opposed in general conference.

The UAE has been elected to the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog, underscoring the country's new position as a model for developing states seeking to harness atomic power.

"It went through without a vote," said Ayhan Evrensel, a spokesman for the IAEA in Vienna. "They will sit at next Monday's board meeting as board members." The Government's commitment to non-proliferation and transparency in its pursuit of nuclear energy has won global plaudits, singled out by many as a "gold standard" in nuclear development. The UAE's interest in the IAEA's work has increased significantly since the start of a civilian nuclear programme two years ago, said Hamad al Kaabi, the UAE's permanent representative to the IAEA.

The Government has actively courted the support of the agency and leading nuclear such as like France and the US as it pursues a US$20 billion (Dh73.4bn) nuclear programme that will result in four reactors in operation by the end of the decade. As part of its efforts to reassure the world that it is not seeking a nuclear weapon, the Emirates gave up its sovereign right to enrich uranium and opened its facilities up to IAEA inspection.

Mr al Kaabi said: "Being a member in the board of governors is an opportunity for the UAE to be part of global decision-making process related to supporting the expansion of peaceful uses of nuclear applications, as well as to prevent nuclear proliferation." "The well-recognised transparent approach and policy decisions related to nuclear energy and non-proliferation that the Government has undertaken has helped the UAE to secure a consensus decision for its election to board membership."

The selection of the UAE and Jordan effectively shut out Iran, which had expressed interest in taking one of the two open spots on the board to represent the Middle East and South Asia. The selection process followed the pattern of most elections to the 33-member board, in which the nomination is decided beforehand by members of each geographic region. The UAE and Jordan will each serve two-year terms, while Pakistan, the region's third representative and now chair of the board, will retain its seat until next year.

Iran dropped out because it was unable to garner enough support in the general conference. Mark Hibbs, an expert on IAEA politics, at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, said: "Iran's candidacy this year, as in previous years, was strongly opposed by many states in the general conference - representing the IAEA's 151 members - given the polarisation in the board over Iran's dispute with the IAEA over its nuclear programme."