NA (AFP) - 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."
Other diplomats who attended behind-the-scene negotiations to reach consensus on the matter confirmed Soltanieh's comments.
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 Sept 2007. Until the nuclear watchdog had completed its investigation of the claims, there was no place on the IAEA board, Washington argued.