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Middle East

Iran Foreign Ministry to lead nuclear talks

President tasks ministry with handling negotiations, in shift away from security officials setting Tehran's strategies.

Last Modified: 05 Sep 2013 16:20
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Talks between Iran and the West in April fell short of any breakthrough [EPA]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has tasked the Foreign Ministry with handling the country’s nuclear negotiations with world powers, in a shift away from security officials setting Tehran's strategies for the talks.

The announcement on Thursday came three weeks before Iran and the UN atomic watchdog are to resume talks in Vienna over Tehran’s controversial nuclear programme.

Since 2007, negotiations have been conducted by Saeed Jalili, head of the country's Supreme National Security Council, who was seen by Western diplomats as an uncompromising ideologue.

Last month, the president named ex-foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi to head the country's Atomic Energy Organisation and career diplomat Reza Najafi as envoy to the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Iran's most powerful authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, retains the final say on any proposed deals.

The last round of negotiations in April with the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany again fell short of any breakthrough.

But some believe more progress can be achieved under Rouhani, a relative moderate who was elected in June and has pledged a more conciliatory and transparent approach to foreign policy than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The six world powers have demanded Tehran cease enrichment of uranium to a fissile purity of 20 percent to reduce concerns that it could be used for nuclear weapons, allegations Tehran has repeatedly denied.

During his role as Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, from 2003-2005, Rouhani accepted the suspension of the enrichment programme.

Rouhani said last month that Iran was ready for serious talks, but he said there could be no surrender of the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy and that Iran would not give up uranium enrichment.

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Source:
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