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. Iran's top nuclear negotiator reshuffles team
TEHRAN, Jan 1 (AFP) Jan 01, 2008
Top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili has made three key changes at the Iranian National Security Council, replacing figures seen as close to his predecessor Ali Larijani, media reported on Tuesday.

Jalili, a faithful ally of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was named secretary of the council in October when Larijani resigned after falling out with the president.

According to a decree issued by Jalili, Mehdi Bokhraie, who has headed think tanks at the army and the elite Revolutionary Guards, replaced Ali Monfared as the council's foreign policy head, Iranian newspapers reported.

Ahmad Khaledi, a former deputy commerce minister, was named director in charge of economic policy in place of Mohammad Nahavandian.

Jaili also appointed the former director of the official IRNA news agency, Ahmad Khadem-ol Meleh, as the official for communications, replacing Abdol Reza Rahmani Fazli.

Analysts expected Jalili to take a harder line in talks on the nuclear standoff after replacing the conservative but more pragmatic Larijani, and he has since refused to make any concessions to the West.

Monfared, Nahavandian, and Rahmani Fazli are all seen as conservatives who were loyal to Larijani. Rahmani Fazli had resigned in the aftermath of Larijani's departure while the others were still in their posts.

Jalili's official title is Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, a position which also means he is the top Iranian negotiator in talks with the European Union and other parties on the nuclear crisis.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he was "disappointed" after five hours of talks with Jalili in London in late November and the pair have not met since.

Ahmadinejad has been accused by his critics of appointing a small group of allies into top positions and sidelining more experienced officials who do not share his views.

The European Union has been seeking to persuade Iran to halt the sensitive process of uranium enrichment and to strike a deal over its nuclear programme, but Tehran has vowed it will never yield to the West's demands.

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