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The government has recommended Nobuo Tanaka, a director at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, to succeed Claude Mandil as executive director of the International Energy Agency, said Toshihiro Nikai, minister of Economy, Trade and Industry.

If Tanaka becomes IEA chief, he will be the first Asian to hold the post. Before Mandil, who is French, IEA heads have all been either British or German.

Tanaka, 56, is currently director for science, technology and industry at the Paris-based policy research institution. He is the first official candidate to succeed Mandil, whose term ends in August 2007, Japanese officials said. The new IEA chief is expected to be named by next March.

Mandil became head of the 26-member IEA in February 2003. The agency was set up by the OECD in 1974 to coordinate economic policy among major oil-consuming economies.

All the nominees to succeed Mandil are expected to be named by October, Nikai said.

“Mr. Tanaka has abundant international experience and is proficient at languages. The IEA chief post is important for Japan and we will try to make (sure he) wins the race with an all-out effort,” Nikai said.

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