TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran”s top nuclear negotiator Hassan Rohani has hinted that he may be removed by hardline president-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he takes office next month.
European diplomats have expressed concerns that the pragmatic secretary of Iran”s Supreme National Security Council may be replaced by a more hardline official when reformist President Mohammad Khatami”s term ends on Aug. 4, signalling a hardening of Iran”s muclear policy stance.
"The secretary of the Supreme National Scurity Council is appointed by the president and his term will automatically end with the end of the government," Rohani told state television on Tuesday night.
"Any further development would depend on the next government," said Rohani, who has led Iran”s nuclear negotiations with the European Union since 2003.
Iran, which insists its nuclear ambitions are limited to peaceful purposes, will hold crucial talks with the EU in August about the long-term future of its atomic programme.
The EU wants Iran to scrap nuclear fuel work, such as uranium enrichment, which could be used to make bomb-grade material, in return for economic and other incentives.
Iran refuses to give up nuclear fuel cycle work and has threatened to resume the enrichment-related activities it froze last November unless the EU recognises its right to develop a fully-fledged nuclear programme.
Such a move could see Iran”s case referred to the U.N. Security Council, the EU has warned.
Ahmadinejad, who won a landslide election victory on 24 June 2005, countered official assurances from Tehran that he would not alter Iran”s stance on the nuclear issue.
"Definitely the new government will adopt new measures which will be announced later," he said after a meeting on Tuesday with parliamentarians to discuss his future cabinet”s composition.
Local media have said that former state broadcasting chief Ali Larijani, a hardliner close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, would replace Rohani and take charge of the nuclear negotiations with the EU.
But the semi-official Mehr news agency, citing an informed source, said on Tuesday Larijani would be made Iran”s new foreign minister, replacing Kamal Kharrazi. Ahmadinejad”s office has refused to discuss any speculation about future cabinet posts.