Iran's Outgoing FM to Head Nuclear Program

President Hassan Rouhani appoints outgoing "pragmatic" Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi to head the Atomic Energy Organization.

Elad Benari, Canada ,

Ali Akbar Salehi
Ali Akbar Salehi

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Friday appointed outgoing Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi to head the Atomic Energy Organization, Reuters reported.

Analysts say that Salehi’s appointment is an attempt by Rouhani to signal to the West that he wants to improve Iran's ties with the outside world and ease the international sanctions on the country over its nuclear program.

The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) is not directly involved in nuclear negotiations with world powers, but is in charge of operating Iran's nuclear facilities.

He also represents Tehran at the annual member state gatherings of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna each September.

Salehi, Iran's foreign minister under former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from 2011 until Thursday when parliament approved his replacement, returns to his previous job as head of the AEOI.

He takes the place of Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani.

"It was another wise appointment. Salehi was the best of Ahmadinejad's ministers, a pragmatist who understands how the world works. It made sense to keep him on in some capacity," Mark Fitzpatrick, director of the non-proliferation and disarmament program of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told Reuters.

"By returning Salehi to his old position, Rouhani sidelines the non-compromising Abbasi-Davani. The outgoing AEOI head, having survived an assassination attempt, seemed unable to overcome bitterness toward the West," he added.

Rouhani, who has been described by the West as a “moderate”, recently said that Iran was ready for "serious" talks on its nuclear program without delay and that U.S. calls for tougher sanctions showed a lack of understanding.

Rouhani also reiterated his insistence that Iran would not negotiate under the threat of economic sanctions or military action.

He hit out at "contradictory messages" from Washington, with the White House saying that it would be a "willing partner" in genuine talks, but the U.S. Senate urging tougher sanctions.

"Recent declarations from the White House show that some U.S. officials do not have a correct and realistic assessment of the situation here and the message that the Iranian people gave in the election," Rouhani said.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)