Syria has backed down in the race for a seat on the UN atomic watchdog's board, leaving Afghanistan to take up the position instead, diplomats said Friday.
Both countries had been vying for the same seat on the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-member board that had come free for the so-called Middle East and South Asia (MESA) group with the expiry of Pakistan's one-year term.
"For the sake of unity within the MESA group, Syria has decided to drop its candidacy," Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told reporters....There will be only one candidate for the MESA group." ...
... Had the MESA countries been unable to decide on a consensus candidate, the matter would have had to go to a vote by all of the IAEA's 145 member countries.
Syria's bid for a greater say within in the IAEA had run into fierce opposition by the United States, which alleges that Damascus was building a covert nuclear facility at a remote desert site called Al-Kibar until it was destroyed by Israeli bombs in September 2007.
'Victory for the credibility of the IAEA'
... A Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that Syria's decision was "a victory for the credibility of the IAEA.....It would have been absurd to have a country on the board that is under investigation for suspected secret nuclear activities..." ...