Ahmadinejad wields axe to cement his position

Iran's foreign minister has been replaced by the head of the country's nuclear programme, in a move that is being seen as the strengthening of the position of President Ahmadinejad and an indication of a tougher public stance towards the global community.

Manoucher Mottaki was fired while visiting Senegal without any prior indication that his job was under threat.

Analysts say that the change suggests intrigue at the highest echelons of the theocratic state, in the ongoing factional power struggle in Tehran.

In a brief statement on his website, Mr Ahmadinejad gave no explanation for the change. But Mr Mottaki is seen as being close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. According to sources, the President has sought for some time to bring in someone who was more personally loyal to him, as he attempted to bolster his authority.

The nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, is one of Ahmadinejad's 12 vice presidents. He takes up his new position as Iran's most senior diplomat as Tehran resumes critical talks with world powers over a nuclear programme that has brought four rounds of UN sanctions.

"This move 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. In the past year, Mr Mottaki opposed a decision by President Ahmadinejad to appoint his own special foreign envoys to key areas such as the Middle East, Afghanistan and the Caspian Sea region.

Mr Mottaki held that the appointments were an embarrassment to the foreign ministry and allegedly took his complaint to Ayatollah Khamenei, who sided with the minister, forcing the President to back down.

Mr Ahmadinejad has challenged the supreme leader in the past over some political appointments. Last year, the president tried to resist Ayatollah Khamenei's order that he fire one of his vice-presidents opposed by conservatives, though Ahmadinejad finally caved in and removed him.

Iranian media have also reported in the past year that some MPs were pushing for Mottaki to be dismissed, arguing that he failed to adequately defend Iran internationally, such as at the UN.

It was not immediately clear how long Mr Salehi – who has a doctorate in nuclear physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology – would remain in the caretaker role. The semi-official Fars news agency says Mohammad Ghannadi, a prominent nuclear scientist, is expected to replace Salehi as the new nuclear chief, an indication that Mr Ahmadinejad wants him to keep the job permanently.

Mr Ghannadi is currently Salehi's deputy at the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. Mr Salehi – or any other candidate for the foreign ministry – has to win a vote of confidence from the 290-seat parliament to be appointed to the position.

Prominent conservative MP Alaeddin Boroujerdi says he was stunned to hear the news, saying the parliament was not aware of Ahmadinejad's decision to dismiss Mottaki, according to the khabaronline.ir news website. Another conservative MP Mahmoud Ahmadi Biqash, said: "It's unpleasant that he is fired in the middle of a foreign assignment. The president should have waited for Mottaki to return home first before [naming] a replacement."

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Mottaki's dismissal should not affect the nuclear talks, which should continue regardless of the officials involved.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Support Worker

£14560 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers personalise...

Recruitment Genius: Key Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A really exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Multi Trade Operative

£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An established, family owned de...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An exciting position has risen for a Customer ...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project