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New Iranian Nuclear Head Urges Mutual Trust With West

Iran's newly-appointed nuclear energy chief is calling for an end to hostilities between his country and the West, and renewed efforts to build trust.

Iranian government TV says that the country's new nuclear energy chief, Ali Akbar Salehi is urging the West to end hostilities with Tehran and to start building trust.

"Legal and technical discussions about Iran's nuclear case have finished," he insists, "and there is no room left to keep this case open."

"We hope," he added, "that more efforts will be made [by the West] to obtain mutual confidence, instead of the last six years of hostility."

They were Salehi's first comments to the media, since being appointed by President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Friday, following the resignation of veteran nuclear negotiator Gholam Reza Aghazadeh.

The soft-spoken Salehi was educated at the American University of Beirut and holds a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Salehi is Iran's former envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency and signed a protocol allowing for freer inspections of Iran's nuclear sites. His appointment appears to be something of a gesture to the U.S.

Neither the U.S., nor the other members of the so-called Group of five-plus-one, including the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany, however, are likely to agree with Salehi about the closure of Tehran's nuclear file.

U.S. President Barack Obama warned Tehran, during the G-8 summit in Italy, that the world is giving it until September to comply with U.N. resolutions over its controversial nuclear program.

Iran has persistently refused to stop enriching uranium, and the West fears that it will use highly enriched uranium to build atomic weapons.

The Iranian government, however, continues to insist that its nuclear program is intended for peaceful, civilian purposes, alone.

Iran analyst Meir Javedanfar of the MEEPAS (Middle East Economic and Political Analysis) center in Tel Aviv argues that Tehran is hardening its position over its nuclear dossier, in response to Western criticism over its violent crackdown against its own people following the June 12 presidential elections.

"I think Ayatollah Khamenei is sending the message that the more we are pushed on other fronts, the more we're going to adjust the balance in our favor, and one area is the nuclear program, because Khamenei knows how important the nuclear program is to the West, especially to President Obama," he said.

"So, I think this is kind of a backlash against what Iran sees as Western interference in its own affairs. I also think that the Iranian government still sees the West as divided and there's not much the West can do at the moment to stop Iran's nuclear program, so they're toughening their policy and they want to see what the reaction will be, if the reaction is going to be hard or if the West is going to come up with an even [better] offer," he added.

Javedanfar, however, believes that those who are seeking a compromise with Iran should not despair completely, because Iranian leaders are pragmatists, and may at the end of the day be ready for an agreement.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Motaki said one week ago that Tehran was preparing to present a "new package" of proposals, concerning what he called "international, security and political issues," to the West for talks.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has also warned the West that Tehran would weigh their criticism over its crackdown on protesters following the June 12 election, in assessing future relations with their countries.