|Iranian foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, has been dismissed from his post, Iranian state media says [Reuters]
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, has fired Manouchehr Mottaki, his foreign minister, the official IRNA news agency has reported.
The announcement came on Monday, but no reasons were given for Mottaki's dismissal, which comes as Iran is engaged in talks with world powers over its sensitive nuclear programme.
Ahmadinejad appointed the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, a close ally to the president, as caretaker for the ministry, state television reported.
"I thank you and appreciate the work and the services you have rendered during your tenure in the foreign ministry," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying in the directive carried by IRNA.
"I hope your efforts receive a praise by God and you will be successful in the rest of your life at the service of people of our Islamic nation," he added.
The sudden shake-up could reflect growing rifts between the ruling clerics and Ahmadinejad's hard-line government, which is strongly backed by the powerful Revolutionary Guard.
"This moves shows not only the internal tensions but the primacy of the nuclear issue as Iran's main foreign policy objective,'' said Rasool Nafisi, an expert on Iranian affairs at Strayer University in Virginia.
Mottaki, a career diplomat, was appointed to the post of foreign minister in August 2005. He is currently in Senegal on an official visit, and it is unclear whether he was aware of the president's decision in advance.
A fluent speaker of English who is also comfortable in Urdu and Turkish, Mottaki earned a degree in social sciences from the University of Bangalore in India and a graduate degree in international relations from Tehran University in 1991.
A reformist website said Mottaki had been critical of Ahmadinejad's policies. "Mottaki failed to adjust himself to the president's viewpoints and his foreign policy," the Mardomsalari website reported.
Sadegh Zibakalam, a professor in political science at the Tehran university, told Al Jazeera that there had been rumours of tensions between Ahmadinejad and Mottaki.
"The relationship between the ex-foreign minister and Ahmadinejad hasn't been going that well," he said. "When he was appointed, five years ago, there were a lot of rumours that Mottaki had been imposed on Ahmadinejad and he wasn't pleased to have him. Since then, on half a dozen occasions, there had been rumours that Ahmedinejad had either sacked Mottaki or asked him to resign."
Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's chief political analyst, said that there had been rumours of discord between the two men. "The dismissed foreign minister was a seasoned politician, not a technocrat, so he was not just implementing orders," he said. "Clearly having a technocrat like Salihi is easier for Ahmadinejad to deal with than the politician Mottaki."
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said she had no "insight or comment" on the news of Mottaki's firing.
"Our relationship toward Iran is not toward any individual," Clinton told reporters."It is toward the country, the government which is complex and challenging to deal with because it is not just one channel," she said.
In a separate development, Iran's Foreign Ministry summoned the British ambassador to Tehran on Monday to protest against the "violent and inhumane" policing of student protests in London, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.
"The violent and inhumane handling by British police of peaceful student demonstrations and also the ambassador's interference in Iran's state matters were the reasons for his summoning by the ministry," Fars reported.