Iran Nuclear NewsIran releases former nuclear negotiator

Iran releases former nuclear negotiator

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AP: A former Iranian nuclear negotiator who reportedly faces espionage charges was released on bail Wednesday, state television said. Associated Press

By NASSER KARIMI

Associated Press Writer

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – A former Iranian nuclear negotiator who reportedly faces espionage charges was released on bail Wednesday, state television said.

Hossein Mousavian was part of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team under former President Mohammad Khatami, the reformist predecessor of the current hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mousavian also is seen as close to one of Ahmadinejad’s top rivals, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who preceded Khatami as president.

Mousavian was arrested April 30. Authorities have not announced charges against him but the semiofficial Fars news agency – which is seen as close to the elite Revolutionary Guards – said two days after the arrest that the charges were likely related to espionage. The agency provided no details.

State television said Mousavian was released by the court on $225,000 bail. Government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham said Wednesday that his detention “was not necessarily related to the nuclear issue,” but did not elaborate.

The arrest could be linked more to political feuding than to the nuclear program. Ahmadinejad has faced increasing criticism from conservatives who were his allies but have moved closer to Rafsanjani.

Rafsanjani holds seats on two of Iran’s most important government bodies and is considered Ahmadinejad’s main political rival, although he may not run in the next presidential elections, to be held in 2008 or 2009, because of age restrictions.

Seen as a more pragmatic conservative than Ahmadinejad, Rafsanjani has taken a somewhat more conciliatory stance toward the U.S. and its allies over Tehran’s nuclear program.

Rafsanjani and Hasan Rowhani, the former head of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team, intervened in the case to obtain Mousavian’s release, independent newspapers reported.

Parliament called Sunday on Iran’s intelligence minister, Gholam Hossein Moseni Ejehi, to answer questions on the case.

Suspicions over the purpose of Iran’s nuclear program have led the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions over Tehran’s refusal to halt its enrichment program. The enrichment process can be used for generating energy or producing the fissile core of nuclear warheads.

When he came to power in 2005, Ahmadinejad removed the nuclear negotiating team, which he had accused of making too many concessions. He installed his own team and has since taken a tough line, refusing to bend to U.N. demands.

The intelligence minister said Tuesday that two more people had been summoned for questioning in connection to Mousavian’s case. He did not give any detail.

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