The Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) failed Thursday to elect a successor to the nuclear watchdog director-general Mohamed ElBaradei, even after three rounds of voting, reports say.

A fresh round of voting was scheduled for Friday after both Japanese ambassador Yukiya Amano and his South African rival Abdul Samad Minty failed to secure the two-thirds majority needed to become the next IAEA head and succeed ElBaradei.

Amano, 61, secured 21 votes in the first round of secret balloting, while Minty,69, got 14. In the second round, Amano's votes fell to 20 while Minty's rose to 15. The third round was also inconclusive. The two candidates have both worked for the agency for many years, with excellent experience in the disarmament field.

If neither hopeful secures a victory even after five rounds, new candidates can be nominated. According to some reports, these include Ernesto Zedillo, former Mexican President, Roger Pfirter, director-general of the organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Tiber Toth, executive secretary of the Preparatory Commission for Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, and Milenko Skoknic, Chilean ambassador to the IAEA.

Under IAEA statutes, the agency's board appoints the chief with the approval of the General Conference of Member-States. Since ElBaradei will complete his term in November, the board has to elect a successor.

A consensus among the members could not be reached, as western nations--which apparently do not want to have a second outspoken chief like ElBaradei--mostly supported Amano, while members from developing countries preferred Minty.

The western countries, which do not want the next leader to be so political have suggested that since ElBaradei is an Egyptian, in accordance with the principles of balance, his successor should not come from Africa.

However, developing nations hope that the next IAEA director-general should protect their interests, rather than be a spokesman for some developed ones. They also expect the new chief to play an active role in promoting nuclear disarmament and peaceful uses of nuclear energy in developing countries.

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