Ahmadinejad Mottaki 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
TEHERAN, Iran — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faced outrage at home Tuesday over the ambush-style dismissal
of his longtime foreign minister, more evidence of a growing rift in
Iran's conservative leadership just as Teheran reopens talks with world
powers on its disputed nuclear program.
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Iran's leaders tried to
quiet the rumblings by insisting there was no fundamental policy shifts
behind the surprise decision Monday to dump Manouchehr Mottaki while he
was in the middle of a diplomatic mission to Senegal and appoint nuclear
chief Ali Akbar Salehi interim foreign minister.
the fallout from some top lawmakers and the media — even one of
Teheran's most hard-line newspapers — pointed to bigger questions about
growing splits between Ahmadinejad and rivals from within the country's
conservative leadership who see the move as a presidential power grab
It also raises the possibility of new friction between Ahmadinejad and
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate power in the
country and has clashed with the president over political appointments
in the past.
"The dismissal of the foreign minister during a foreign mission will
have a heavy price" for Iran's diplomacy, said Mohammad Karamirad, a
member of parliament's influential National Security and Foreign Policy
Mottaki has made no public comment. But he returned to Iran Tuesday and
was greeted at the foreign ministry by some staff in what appeared to be
a show of support and a protest against his dismissal.
Divisions among Iran's conservative blocs have been evident since
Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election last year — which brought
wide-ranging crackdowns on dissidents and marked a sharp rise in the
influence of his main backers, the powerful Revolutionary Guard.
But the political dismay over Mottaki's forced exit suggests the
fissures could be widening over complaints about Ahmadinejad's combative
style and his attempts to keep power among a tight circle of loyalists.
It could leave Ahmadinejad more isolated as the ruling system confronts
multiple challenges, including an economy stumbling under international
sanctions and whether to continue defying Western demands to halt
uranium enrichment — the position that brought four rounds of sanctions
Uranium enrichment is the most contentious part of Iran's nuclear
program. Uranium enriched to low levels can be used for nuclear power
but enriched to higher levels it can be used to make nuclear weapons.
The US and its allies suspect Iran is aiming to make a nuclear weapon, a
charge Iran denies.
Talks on the nuclear program between Iran and world powers, including
the United States, resumed last week after a long hiatus and the next
meeting is scheduled for early 2011.
Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, said placing
nuclear chief Salehi as the country's top diplomat did not signal a
change of course.
"With the change, we will not see any change in Iran's basic policies,"
including the nuclear talks, Mehmanparast told reporters in his weekly
He also stressed that all critical policy decisions come at "higher
levels" than the foreign ministry — a clear reference to the Supreme
Council of National Security that includes Ahmadinejad and Khamenei, who
has final say on all state matters.