Iran Nuclear NewsIran limits new nuclear negotiator

Iran limits new nuclear negotiator

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New York Times: Hours before Iran’s new chief nuclear negotiator made his international debut in Rome, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made clear today that there was no room for negotiation on the country’s nuclear program. The New York Times

By ELAINE SCIOLINO
Published: October 24, 2007

PARIS, Oct. 23 — Hours before Iran’s new chief nuclear negotiator made his international debut in Rome, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made clear today that there was no room for negotiation on the country’s nuclear program.

The tone for the first talks between the new negotiator, Saeed Jalili, and the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, was set when Mr. Ahmadinejad announced, “Iran will not retreat one iota.”

“We are in favor of talks but we will not negotiate with anyone about our right to nuclear technology,” he was quoted on state-run television in Tehran as saying during a trip to Armenia.

“Whoever wants to negotiate about his right will lose part of it,” he said.

Mr. Solana had hoped to restart the moribund negotiations on behalf of the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, which hinge on Iran’s acceptance of a freeze on producing enriched uranium, which can be used to produce electricity or to fuel bombs.

There was little optimism going into the talks that Iran’s new negotiator would arrive with groundbreaking ideas. In fact, it is unclear just what Mr. Jalili’s role is.

He came with Ali Larijani, his predecessor, who also participated in Tuesday’s talks despite his resignation last week. In his first statement since resigning, he told Iranian journalists in Rome, “Iran’s nuclear policies are stable and will not change” with his departure.

Mr. Larijani, the former head of Iran’s state-run radio and television, had tried repeatedly to resign from the thankless nuclear post, complaining to his European interlocutors that he had no authority to negotiate. On Sunday, Mr. Ahmadinejad finally accepted his resignation, replacing him with Mr. Jalili, one of his closest aides.

His departure has elicited unusually public criticism in Iran, suggesting that there is disagreement at least with the tactical approach of the government in handling the Iran issue.

Ali Akbar Velayati, who served as foreign minister for more than 15 years and is now senior foreign policy adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called the resignation unwise and ill-timed.

“In the very important and sensitive situation where the nuclear issue is at the moment, it would be better if this did not happen, or at least it was prevented,” Mr. Velayati was quoted as saying in a number of Iranian newspapers today.

He added that given the current negative international stance toward Iran, officials should have been more patient and resolved their problems among themselves. He also praised both Mr. Larijani, and his predecessor, Hassan Rowhani, who was pushed out amid a policy dispute over the nuclear issue.

Reflecting the breadth of discontent with Mr. Larijani’s replacement, almost 200 members of Iran’s Parliament have signed a letter praising Mr Larijani’s “valuable efforts” as nuclear negotiator, the Jam-e Jam newspaper reported.

Mohammed Hashemi, a former vice president and the brother of former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, was even more outspoken, telling the Aftab Web site: “It is very disappointing that the government does not tolerate even views of a person like Mr. Larijani and eliminates him in such a manner. The government tolerates less and less the ideas that are different to its own.”

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