News / Middle East

    Iran Shifts Nuclear Chief to Interim Leader of Foreign Ministry

    Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's nuclear chief and interim foreign minister(file photo)
    Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's nuclear chief and interim foreign minister(file photo)

    Iranian state media say President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has fired Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaqi.  His interim replacement is Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's atomic energy agency and the driving force behind the nuclear program that has put Iran at odds with much of the world.   

    Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaqi was fired just a week after Iran had agreed in talks with world powers to hold more negotiations on its disputed nuclear program.

    Dismissed Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki (file photo)
    Dismissed Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki (file photo)

    President Ahmadinejad offered his appreciation for Mottaqi's work, but offered no explanation for the surprise move.

    His interim replacement, Ali Akbar Salehi, is believed to be closer personally to the president and, as was Mottaqi, a staunch defender of Iran's right to pursue nuclear energy.  

    The Iranian government insists its atomic program is only for civilian use, but the nation has been repeatedly sanctioned by the United Nations for not revealing information that could prove there is no military component to its work.

    Just days before the international talks earlier this month, Salehi announced Iran is capable of producing yellow-cake uranium, an important step in the process of enriching the material.

    Salehi described the development as part of Iran's ongoing efforts to mine uranium domestically, and offered his thanks to Mr. Ahmadinejad for the push the president has given the program.  

    It was widely seen as a counterpoint to the idea that international sanctions and a mysterious computer worm that had infected many Iranian nuclear computer systems had slowed the nation's efforts. 

    Iranian reformist websites speculated Mottaqi was ousted for being too moderate on the nuclear issue.   But Iranian History Professor Ali Ansari, of St. Andrews University in Scotland, says the switch would have little immediate effect on the international front.

    "I do not think there will be any significant change on the nuclear issue for the simple reason that not a huge amount is going on," said Ansari.  "I think that what this shows is actually more the disputes within the system rather than policy without, so to speak.   I think it reflects more a division of opinion and personality clashes within the system."

    The inner workings of the Iranian government are far from transparent, leading to the modern day equivalent of Soviet-era "Kremlin-watching" - a way to understand who is in favor and who is not.  Much analysis has centered on supposed tensions between President Ahmadinejad and Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.   

    "Ahmedinejad wanted to have greater control of foreign policy making and he was quite keen to appoint his own special envoys on foreign policy," said Professor Ansari. "And this was a clash basically with Mottaqi on this basis.  Mottaqi felt that foreign policy should be his responsibility.  And I think he may have had a closer relationship perhaps with the supreme leader and felt the supreme leader would back him on this."

    The interim foreign minister, in addition to being close to Mr. Ahmadinejad, has served as a nuclear advisor to the Iranian government and was named head of the Atomic Energy Organization last year.  He received a doctoral degree from America's prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1970's, prior to the Islamic revolution.

    The outgoing Mottaqi, a career diplomat and foreign minister since 2005, is currently visiting Senegal.

    You May Like

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    How Diversity Has Changed America

    Over the past four decades, the level of diversity in the United States has increased most in these four states

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.