The Guardian: Doubts surrounded the future of Iran’s foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, yesterday after the departure of the country’s chief nuclear negotiator appeared to signal a significant power shift to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Guardian
· Chief negotiator resigns after rift on strategy
· Doubts surround future of foreign minister
Robert Tait in Tehran and Ian Black
Doubts surrounded the future of Iran’s foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, yesterday after the departure of the country’s chief nuclear negotiator appeared to signal a significant power shift to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. A day after Ali Larijani resigned as secretary of the supreme national security council, speculation grew that the foreign minister, a career diplomat, may be the next to go as the president tightens his grip on nuclear policy.
Mr Larijani quit after differences with the president over Iran’s negotiating strategy. Despite being staunchly opposed to abandoning the country’s uranium enrichment programme – which the west suspects is designed to build a nuclear bomb – Mr Larijani favoured diplomatic engagement to relieve international pressure, in contrast to the president’s defiant approach.
Western diplomats in Tehran were adopting a “wait and see” approach yesterday to the appointment of Mr Larijani’s successor, Saeed Jalili, 42, a hawk and close ally of the president. But analysts said the president, who has declared Iran’s nuclear case “closed”, had gained control over the issue and predicted a more inflexible posture in the face of UN security council demands to suspend enrichment.
The foreign minister is believed to have been frozen out of major decision-making, and rumours of his impending departure have circulated for weeks. “Mr Mottaki has a diplomatic background, but the president is looking for people with a special military and intelligence background,” said a political analyst, Issa Saharkhiz. “They plan to give a tough, uncompromising reaction to the UN security council sanctions, and for this they want people with less diplomatic backgrounds and who least believe in dialogue with western nations.”
Mr Larijani played a key role in the release of the 15 British sailors and marines who strayed from Iraq into Iranian territorial waters last spring. That paved the way for a secret meeting in Europe between him and Tony Blair’s foreign policy adviser, Nigel Sheinwald.
But the Foreign Office played down the significance of the move. “At the end of the day I don’t think it’s a question of individuals,” a spokesman said. “The Iranians are quite clear on what the international community expects of them.”