VIENNA (Reuters) – Argentina’s Rafael Grossi has secured the backing of enough countries on the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s board to become the head of the agency, succeeding Yukiya Amano after he died in office, diplomats who followed the vote on Tuesday said.

Grossi, 58, is currently Argentina’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency and a veteran of nuclear diplomacy. He was in a close-fought race against Romania’s Cornel Feruta, formerly Amano’s right-hand man and currently the IAEA’s acting director general.

Previous votes by countries on the IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors had failed to produce a clear winner but eliminated two other candidates. On Tuesday Grossi obtained the two-thirds of votes required, with 24 countries supporting him, 10 backing Feruta and one abstaining, diplomats said.

Tuesday’s vote paves the way for Grossi to become the next director general but must still be signed off on by the board, which aims to approve the winner by consensus, and by a larger meeting of all IAEA member states, both of which are considered a formality.

Reporting by Francois Murphy, editing by Thomas Escritt