News / Middle East

Iran's President Still Undecided on His Nuclear Negotiator

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a debate in parliament on his proposed cabinet, in Tehran August 12, 2013.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a debate in parliament on his proposed cabinet, in Tehran August 12, 2013.
Reuters
President Hassan Rouhani is still deciding who will lead 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.
 
Rouhani has signaled that Iran is willing to be more transparent over the program and take a less confrontational stance in negotiations with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, the so-called P5+1.
 
Although he has named his cabinet, Rouhani has yet to announce who will be the new head of the Supreme National Security Council, a figure who has also been chief negotiator in 10 years of the on-off nuclear talks.
 
The delay has led to speculation in Iranian media that Rouhani wants to transfer that role to the Foreign Ministry, traditionally a less hardline institution.
 
“In the past 10 years ... the negotiator has been the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council. This may change, Mr. Rouhani may decide to appoint someone else, maybe the foreign minister or anyone else that he deems necessary,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi told a news conference.
 
“We are still waiting for our president to announce which institution is charged with pursuing the nuclear negotiations and afterward to identify the negotiator and the nuclear team,” Araqchi said.
 
Given the importance of the post and the urgency with which Rouhani says he wants to restart talks, the time taken to decide who should conduct them suggested a vigorous debate behind the scenes of Iran's complex and often opaque political system.
 
Rouhani has already appointed the pragmatic outgoing foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, to replace the hardliner Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani as head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization in what experts see as a signal of a more flexible approach.
 
Rouhani has stressed that, while there will be a change of style in Iran's dealings with the world, Tehran will not give up what it says is its right to pursue nuclear technology to generate electricity and for medical research.
 
Western nations suspect the Islamic Republic is using its nuclear work as a screen for a secret weapons program.

Seasoned diplomat
 
The present head of the Supreme National Security Council is Saeed Jalili, an uncompromising hardliner who was resoundingly beaten by Rouhani in the presidential election.
 
While the president can appoint a new head of the council, the fact that it comprises representatives of government, parliament, judiciary, armed forces and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei may make it hard to agree a negotiating line.
 
Giving that responsibility to the Foreign Ministry could speed up progress, even though the approval of the council, and especially Khamenei, would still be needed for any deal.
 
Rouhani has appointed the respected diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif as foreign minister, a man involved in a string of secret talks with the United States over three decades and someone well known to U.S. officials including Vice President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
 
A diplomat of Zarif's experience might be a natural choice to lead talks on Iran's most sensitive foreign policy issue.
 
At the same time, a message of moderation might erode the unity in the P5+1 between Russia and China on one side and the Western states on the other that Jalili's intransigence produced.
 
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who also heads the negotiating team for the world powers, called Zarif on Saturday to congratulate him on his appointment and both agreed to meet soon.
 
“I told Ms. Ashton that we want the issue to be resolved, not that negotiations be held for the sake of negotiations,” Mehr news agency quoted Zarif as saying.
 
Zarif was criticized by some lawmakers for his links to purged reformists, for having spent so much time in the United States, both in education or as Iran's U.N. ambassador, and for having contacts with U.S. politicians during the presidency of George W. Bush, which took a more hawkish line on Iran.
 
“Some representatives have questioned my communications with some current American officials, but these officials were once opponents of the warmongering government,” Iranian media quoted Zarif as saying in a meeting with parliamentarians last week.
 
“If I was able to sow differences among the warmongers, then this is a source of pride.”

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid