It had been assumed that Britain was also well-disposed towards Dr ElBaradei, who has said he plans to seek a third term next year as IAEA chief, but a well-placed Whitehall source revealed that officials had secretly backed US moves to replace him. The Foreign Office gave its support to the plan weeks ago, and the Department of Trade and Industry, in charge of Britain's nuclear regulation, was also behind the move, according to the source.
Dr ElBaradei has angered Britain and the US by contradicting their claims that Iraq was seeking to reconstitute its nuclear programme. The Foreign Office refused to comment, but behind the scenes it is justifying its decision to back the Americans on a technicality known as the "Geneva rule". This says senior UN officials should serve no more than two terms, which would bring Dr ElBaradei's tenure to an end next summer.
Remember that a few weeks ago diplomats were leaking info to journalists in Vienna to discredit Baradei, even suggesting that he was helping covering up an Egyptian nuclear program. But we haven't heard anything since, have we?