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. New Iran FM faces nuclear crisis with little experience
TEHRAN (AFP) Aug 14, 2005
The man likely to take the reins at Iran's foreign ministry is a career diplomat who, despite having little experience in top office, is to lead Iran through a burgeoning crisis over its nuclear ambitions.

Manoushehr Mottaki, 52, also a veteran MP, was tapped by ultra-conservative President Mahmood Ahmadinejad Sunday to serve as foreign minister in his new hardline cabinet.

Mottaki, who has served as ambassador to Turkey and Japan, said recently that he favoured a complete resumption of sensitive nuclear fuel cycle work, while maintaining dialogue with European negotiators.

Between serving as diplomat to Ankara from 1985 to 1989 and later Tokyo from 1994 to 1998, Mottaki headed the Western Europe section of the foreign ministry in 1989, and has also acted as a deputy FM and consultant between 1984 and 2004.

If approved by parliament, Mottaki will replace Kamal Kharazzi, who served as foreign minister for two consecutive terms from 1997 to 2005 under reformist president Mohammad Khatami.

Mottaki was among those elected to the first parliament after Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979.

He was most recently elected to parliament in February 2004, when conservatives gained a majority after the hardline Guardians Council banned thousands of reformist candidates from seeking legislative office.

He is currently head of the presidential committee for national security in the parliament's Foreign Affairs Commission, which has tended to adopt severe positions on strategic affairs, particularly nuclear matters.

A fluent speaker of English who is also comfortable in Urdu and Turkish, Mottaki earned a degree in social sciences from the University of Bangalore in India and a graduate degree in international relations from Tehran University in 1991.

If given a vote of confidence by parliament, Mottaki will head the foreign ministry at a critical time in Iran's history, as pressure heats up over its nuclear programme.

He recently criticised negotiations between Iran and the EU over Iran's nuclear activities, and defended the decision to begin enrichment activities that had been suspended during nine months of negotiations.

"After the removal of (UN atomic agency) seals at the conversion plant of Isfahan, Iran is ready to pursue negotiations with the Europeans to also remove those (seals) placed on the enrichment facility in Natanz and begin nuclear fuel cycle work," Mottaki said.

Some months ago, he told Iranian state television that Iran "should not give the Europeans a more important role than they have in reality, because their carrot-and-stick policy exists only because of American and Zionist pressure."

The International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors has adopted a resolution calling on Iran to halt its uranium conversion activities.

In the meantime, the nuclear issue will remain in the hands of the Supreme Council for National Security, which is currently headed by the pragmatic Hassan Rowhani, who is due to be replaced by hardliner Ali Larijani.

But even if Mottaki takes up the foreign ministry post, Iranian leaders have highlighted the fact that the broader strokes of foreign policy are determined by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khmamenei.

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