A relative moderate who has headed Iran's foreign ministry since 2011 on Friday received a nod from President Hassan Rouhani to lead the country's atomic energy organization, replacing a conservative who has held the post, Reuters reported.
As head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi would play no direct role in talks aimed at defusing a long-running global standoff over activities feared in Washington and other Western capitals to be stepping stones toward a nuclear bomb. However, the position would give him responsibility for overseeing Iran's atomic sites, and for attending a yearly gathering of International Atomic Energy Agency member states.
Former U.S. State Department official Mark Fitzpatrick called Salehi "the best of Ahmadinejad's ministers, a pragmatist who understands how the world works."
Salehi would succeed nuclear scientist Fereidoun Abbasi, who was the target of attempted violence three years ago.
"Having survived an assassination attempt, [Abbasi] seemed unable to overcome bitterness toward the West," Fitzpatrick said.
The appointment came one day after the Iranian legislature signed off on nearly all of Rouhani's cabinet nominations, including a new foreign minister deeply versed in dealing with the United States, the Los Angeles Times reported.
This article was published in Global Security Newswire, which is produced independently by National Journal Group under contract with the Nuclear Threat Initiative. NTI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group working to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.