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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid