ALI Larijani, who quit as Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, and his replacement will hold talks with the European Union's Javier Solana to try to defuse a row with the West, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday in Tehran.
Larijani's resignation was announced on Saturday, a move analysts said exposed a rift with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about how to fend off pressure from the West, which accuses the Islamic Republic of seeking atomic bombs. Tehran says its nuclear intentions are peaceful and wants the technology only to create energy.
Analysts said the change would strengthen the president's hand in pushing a harder line. One diplomat was wary about the appointment of Saeed Jalili, a presidential ally, as the new negotiator, saying he "specializes in monologue" not debate.
Larijani was scheduled to go to Rome tomorrow to meet Solana, the EU foreign policy chief representing six world powers in attempts to resolve the nuclear standoff.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said Larijani and Jalili, a deputy foreign minister, would attend but said it was not clear if both would go to future meetings.
Iranian analysts said Larijani's presence could be part of a handover plan or to show he was not quitting under a cloud.
Hosseini said the reshuffle did not signal any new policy.
"The other parties must not misinterpret the resignation. We have stressed this time and again, all Iranian officials have said the same, that the nuclear matter is a national dossier," Hosseini told a news conference.
He said the pursuit of peaceful nuclear technology was part of Iran's "unchangeable goals."
The final say in nuclear and other policy lies with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But analysts said changing such a top post would need his approval and Jalili's appointment indicated support for the president and his position.