Yukiya Amano, head of the United Nation’s nuclear watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency, was confirmed dead on Monday at the age of 72.

The Japanese diplomat before his death, held the IAEA top job since 2009. He took over from Mohamed ElBaradei, and steered the U.N. agency through a period of intense diplomacy over Iran’s nuclear program while seeking in vain to return to agency involvement in North Korea.

“The secretariat of the International Atomic Energy Agency regrets to inform with the deepest sadness of the passing away of Director General Yukiya Amano,” the IAEA said in a statement, without saying when he died.

The statement released by the IAEA did not lay out a time frame 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. The IAEA however said its flag over its headquarters in Vienna, had been lowered to half-mast.

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