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Last Updated: Monday, 8 August 2005, 12:28 GMT 13:28 UK
Iran hardliner heads nuclear team
By Sadeq Saba
BBC News regional analyst

Ali Larijani
Ali Larijani stood in the recent presidential election

Iran has appointed a hardline politician, Ali Larijani, to lead the country's nuclear talks with the European Union.

A spokesman for Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Agha-Mohammadi has told the official news agency, IRNA, that the new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is shortly expected to issue a decree on the appointment.

Mr Larijani will replace the moderate pragmatic cleric, Hassan Rouhani, who has led Iran's nuclear talks with the EU over the past two years.

Mr Rouhani's replacement may signify that Iran is hardening its stance on the nuclear issue.

He has managed to maintain dialogue with the West since 2003 and his departure may worry Western governments.

Critic

Mr Larijani has criticised Iran's policy of negotiations with the West.

The appointment of Mr Larijani means that the new president wants to be in charge of nuclear talks

When Iran agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment programme about a year ago as a concession to European negotiators, Mr Larijani famously described it as offering "a rare pearl in return for a lollipop".

He said the accord went against Iran's national interests.

Mr Larijani represents Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, at the Supreme National Security Council and he is close to him.

He was a presidential candidate in June elections and he lost to Mr Ahmadinejad. He was head of Iran's state broadcasting until a year ago.

The appointment of Mr Larijani as Iran's chief nuclear negotiator also means that the new president wants to be in charge of nuclear talks.

But Iranian leaders have repeatedly emphasised that the country's policy of negotiations with the EU will not change under President Ahmadinejad.




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