U.N. atom agency head "solidly in U.S. court": WikiLeaks

VIENNA (Reuters) - U.N. nuclear watchdog chief Yukiya Amano suggested before he took office last year that he was “solidly in the U.S. court” on key issues including Iran, U.S. diplomatic cables cited by the Guardian newspaper said.

The report may worsen tension between Amano, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Iran at a sensitive time in wider diplomatic efforts to resolve a dispute over the Islamic state’s nuclear program.

Talks between Iran and six big powers -- the United States, France, Russia, Britain, China and Germany -- are due to resume next week in Geneva in the first such meeting in more than year.

Western powers suspect Iran of seeking to develop nuclear bombs behind the front of a declared civilian nuclear energy program, an accusation Tehran rejects.

A European diplomat predicted that Tehran’s envoy would raise the issue of the leaked U.S. cables at a meeting of the IAEA’s 35-nation governing board starting on Thursday, which is due to discuss its latest report on Iran’s nuclear activities.

“I’m certain that at some point he will comment on how the United States has stated Amano is their person or is on their wavelength,” the diplomat said.

Washington’s envoy to the Vienna-based U.N. agency, Ambassador Glyn Davies, said the United States regretted any “embarrassment or discomfort” caused by the leaked documents.

Iran has accused Amano, a veteran Japanese diplomat, of bias and relations, which soured further in June when he said Tehran was hampering IAEA work by barring some of its inspectors.

Throwing independent weight behind the West’s suspicions about Tehran’s atomic ambitions, Amano said in his first report on Iran in February that the IAEA feared Tehran may be working now to develop a nuclear-armed missile.


Britain’s Guardian is one of a number of publications worldwide to have had early access to some 250,000 U.S. cables obtained by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.

The U.S. mission to the IAEA, in a cable written after Amano was elected but before he took office in December 2009, described him as a “DG (Director General) of all states, but in agreement with us.”

It said Amano had reminded the U.S. ambassador on several occasions that he would need to make concessions to developing countries, “but that he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.”

Amano, who succeeded Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei after serving as Japanese ambassador to the IAEA, rose into the position thanks to overwhelming support from industrialized states, while many developing countries regarded him as a tool of Western powers.

The cables also suggested there were staff tensions within the IAEA, with one quoting Amano as saying he was seeking to replace a senior official with someone who was closer to his own thinking. The official named is still in his position.

The European diplomat said he believed the impression created by the leaked documents was unfair to Amano, who he said had “done bis best to be a neutral and technical DG.”

Davies, the U.S. ambassador, said: “We regret the disclosure of any information that was intended to be confidential and we regret any embarrassment or discomfort to colleagues that the publications of the documents may cause.”

Additional reporting by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Mark Heinrich