Thursday, 16 December 2010

Iran says the sacking of Mottaki will not impact foreign policy

Iran says its foreign policy will not be affected by the recent sacking of the country's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. The Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fired Mottaki on Monday 13th December for reasons which have not been disclosed.

The presidential directive to Mottaki's interim replacement, Iran's nuclear energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi read “Considering your commitment, knowledge, and valued expertise, and in accordance with Article 135 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and based on this decree you are appointed as acting foreign minister.”

Speaking to the press on Tuesday 14th December, Iran's Foreign Ministry's Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said that Mottaki's removal from office “will not see any alteration of Iran's basic policies” as they are "decided at higher levels".

Mehmanparast also added that the sacking will not affect the country's stance on its nuclear programme and that the decision to fire Mottaki was due to practical reasons, but declined to elaborate. He went on to commend Mottaki and laud his successor Salehi.

Some members of the parliament have criticized Ahmadinejad's impromptu decision, which may have been a result of a power struggled between Iran's ruling conservatives and Ahmadinejad's opponents with whom Mottaki was allied.

Iranian media has expressed shock about the sudden dismissal of the foreign minister, questioning why it took place while Mottaki was on a stake visit to Senegal. Mehmanparast declined to comment about the timing.

Kayhan daily described the sacking as a “clear insult” to Mottaki who had been the country's Foreign Minister since 2005. The newspaper implied that the sacking was a result of a disagreement between Ahmadinejad and Mottaki over “parallel diplomacy” which transpired in summer following Ahmadinejad's attempts to appoint his aides as envoys to work alongside the foreign office. It is believe that, Ahmadinejad's decision to back down was heavily influenced by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Former Iranian president Abolhassan Bani Sadr called the firing "scandalous," and noted that Ahmadinejad is trying to convince the world that he and Supreme Leader Khamenei are "in charge" of Iran's foreign policy.

Sadr also stressed that Khamenei would have no doubt seconded Ahmadinejad's decision. He also said that the choice of Salehi as the replacement could be a signal to the West that he and Khamenei will be the ultimate arbiteurs during nuclear negotiations in January.

Iranian lawmakers, who will have to approve the new appointee, have also voiced concern over Mottaki's sacking and the way it transpired. A senior member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Esmail Kowsari said," I do not approve of the manner Mr Mottaki was dismissed, because he was on duty in Senegal when his dismissal order was issued."

Kowsari added that a commission would have to review and approve the appointment of Salehi as an interim foreign minister. Salehi, who was appointed as Iran's atomic energy chief in 2009, has been a driving force behind the country's nuclear programme.

Sources: Voice of America, BBC News, PressTV

For more news and expert analysis about Iran, please see Iran Strategic Focus.

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