VIENNA – The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano, has died at the age of 72, the organization said Monday.
In a statement, the secretariat of the United Nations nuclear watchdog expressed its “deepest sadness” at the passing away of the Japanese diplomat, who had been heading the agency since 2009.
Amano was due to step down, according to the statement, which didn’t say when he died or specified the cause of his death.
“The secretariat wishes to share his most recent reflection which he intended to include in his letter to the Board of Governors announcing his decision to step down,” said the statement.
The agency released part of Amano’s letter in which he was quoted as saying that he was “very proud of our achievements, and grateful to member states and agency staff.”
“During the past decade, the agency delivered concrete results to achieve the objective of ‘Atoms for Peace and Development’, thanks to the support of member states and the dedication of agency staff,” said Amano, according to the agency.
Amano had overseen a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and six major world powers in 2015 that restricted the Islamic republic’s uranium enrichment program. The deal was last year scrapped by United States President Donald Trump.
The Trump administration move has escalated tensions in the gulf region.
The brief statement, posted on the website of IAEA, which seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, said that the agency’s flag will be lowered to “half-mast” to mourn the death.
Last week, diplomatic officials told EFE in Vienna, on grounds of anonymity, that Amano was planning on Monday to communicate to the agency’s board of governors his decision to resign in March 2020.
There had been speculation in the Vienna capital that Amano’s decision to cut short his third term, which was due to end in Nov. 2021, was due to health reasons.
Amano’s health had worsened visibly over the past year due to an unspecified illness, which had kept him away for months from the IAEA secretariat.
The IAEA is an autonomous organization of the UN with over 2,000 employees, which ensures nuclear safety worldwide and is responsible for verifying compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.