New York (Web Desk): United Nations nuclear watchdog chief Yukiya Amano has died, the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Monday.
The 72-year-old Japanese diplomat had held the position of IAEA director general since 2009, taking over from Mohamed ElBaradei and steering the UN agency through a period of intense diplomacy over Iran's nuclear programme while seeking in vain to return to North Korea.
"The Secretariat of the International Atomic Energy Agency regrets to inform with deepest sadness of the passing away of Director General Yukiya Amano," the IAEA said in a statement.
Amano had been preparing to leave his position in March, well before the end of his third four-year term, which ran until November 30, 2021. Diplomats who follow the agency had said he planned to announce his decision on Monday.
The IAEA announced last September that Amano had undergone an unspecified medical procedure. The specific nature of his illness has remained a taboo subject within the agency, diplomats said, but with each public appearance he had appeared increasingly frail.
Monday's statement did not lay out a timeframe for naming a successor, though the race to succeed him had been taking shape since last week when it became clear he would step down early.