Iran: Larijani to go to Rome nuke talks

Iran Materials 21 October 2007 15:32 (UTC +04:00)

( AP ) - Iran's Foreign Ministry on Sunday said Ali Larijani, who recently resigned as the country's top nuclear negotiator, would attend talks on Tuesday in Rome alongside the country's new top negotiator and the European Union's foreign policy chief.

Larijani, his successor Saeed Jalili, and the EU's Javier Solana are meeting in an attempt to ease tensions between the West and Tehran over its controversial nuclear program.

"Based on the supreme leader's and president's suggestion, Mr. Larijani, alongside Mr. Jalili, will attend the negotiation with Solana on Tuesday," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters during his weekly news conference.

He emphasized that despite Larijani's resignation, Iran's "nuclear policy, strategy and aims are unchangeable."

On Saturday, the Iranian government said Larijani was being replaced by Jalili, a little-known diplomat. The move was seen as a victory for the hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that could push the country into an even more defiant position in its standoff with the West.

The U.S. and some of its allies accuse Iran of secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons - a claim Tehran denies. Oil-rich Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes including generating electricity. The U.N. Security Council has imposed two sets of sanctions over Iran's refusal to suspend uranium enrichment.

Larijani was viewed as more moderate than Ahmadinejad and the two often clashed over how to negotiate with the world on the nuclear issue. Analysts speculated the intense rivalry between the president and Larijani, who answered directly to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was behind the resignation.

Though it was not clear whether Larijani left his post under pressure, his departure was interpreted by many here as giving Ahmadinejad a free hand in dictating his views to the less-experienced Jalili.