News / Middle East

Iran's Envoy to IAEA to Leave Post

FILE - Iran's Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, March 6, 2013.
FILE - Iran's Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, March 6, 2013.
Iran's envoy to the U.N. atomic agency will leave his post next month, in what may be a further sign of new President Hassan Rouhani's desire for a fresh start with the outside world over its disputed nuclear program.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh's surprise departure comes after Rouhani last Friday appointed former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, seen as a pragmatist, to head Iran's atomic energy organization, replacing a hardliner in the job.
Rouhani has pledged to improve Iran's ties with world powers in an attempt to ease stringent international sanctions on the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program, which it says is entirely peaceful but the West suspects has military aims.
Soltanieh, an energetic diplomat in his early 60s who often rails against the West in meetings of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), had been leading so far fruitless negotiations with the agency.
“I confirm that my mission, assignment, will be over on Sept. 1,” nuclear physicist Soltanieh told Reuters on Wednesday. “I'm proud that I've served my country and I'm grateful for their trust and I will go back home of course to serve my country.”
It was not immediately clear whether his move was planned or was a more recent decision by Tehran.
One Western diplomat accredited to the IAEA said Soltanieh “was the face” in Vienna of the previous Iranian government and that his replacement may be another indication of Rouhani seeking a new atmosphere in Tehran's international dealings.
“If the president wants a new dynamic maybe he needs a new person” as ambassador to the U.N. agency, the diplomat said.
New Start
Meanwhile, the appointment of Salehi - also a former ambassador to the IAEA - was seen as a further signal that Rouhani intends to pursue a more flexible approach to Iran's nuclear dispute with the West than his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a hardliner.
IAEA chief nuclear inspector Herman Nackaerts, Soltanieh's counterpart in the talks, is due to retire next month, meaning both sides may enter any new round of discussions with new chief negotiators. The next meeting has yet to be scheduled.
There was also no word yet on who would replace Soltanieh, who has held the job for some seven years, diplomats said.
The IAEA has for years been investigating  allegations that Iran has carried out research and tests relevant for the development of nuclear weapons, a charge the country denies.
Western diplomats have accused Iran of stonewalling the IAEA's inquiry, and Tehran's relations with the U.N. agency have become increasingly strained in recent years.
One European diplomat said Soltanieh still seemed to have cordial personal relations with IAEA officials in talks that got under way in early 2012 on what the U.N. agency calls the “possible military dimensions” to Iran's nuclear program.
“He is skilled and knowledgeable,” the diplomat said.
Rouhani is still deciding who will lead broader diplomatic talks with world powers on Iran's nuclear program, the Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday, more than two months after the moderate cleric was elected.
The Iran-IAEA talks are separate, but still closely linked, to the negotiations between six major powers and Iran aimed at finding a diplomatic solution to the decade-old dispute and avert the threat of a new Middle East war.
Western states and Israel say Iran's atomic energy program is in fact an attempt to attain a nuclear weapons capability. Tehran denies the charge and says it only wants the technology to generate electricity and for medical research.

You May Like

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

Survivor: Gunman Spared 'Lucky One' to Give Police Message

Law enforcement official says a manifesto of several pages was recovered; contents not revealed More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs