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.
Reuters
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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid