Iran names hardliner to run atomic policy

TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran named an outspoken hardliner to run its nuclear policy Monday in a move likely to intensify international concerns following the Islamic regime’s rejection of European incentives for abandoning ultra-sensitive fuel cycle work.
New President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad nominated the former director of state broadcast media, Ali Larijani, as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Iran’s top policy making body.

Larijani, one of eight candidates in the first round of Iran’s presidential election in June, is a trusted aide of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

He is on the record as a staunch critic of troubled talks with the European Union on providing reassurances that Iran’s nuclear programme is exclusively civil.

He was outspokenly dismissive of a package of incentives that the European Union offered earlier this month in return for Iran giving up ultra-sensitive nuclear fuel cycle work, deriding it as being asked to “give up a pearl for a sweetie.”

In March, Larijanai said that “making the least concession on nuclear technology would be tantamount to high treason.”

Days before Iran resumed uranium conversion, Larijani said: “It is logical and just to expect the last act of this [outgoing] government to be the resumption” of enrichment-linked activities.

His nomination to replace Hassan Rowhani at the head of nuclear policy comes at a time when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has demanded that Iran renew a nine-month freeze on uranium ore conversion, and is likely to intensify fears of a new crisis.

It followed the unveiling of Ahmadinejad’s new Cabinet on Sunday, which includes a number of hardliners in key posts.

Thin with a greying beard, the 48-year-old Larijani has earned a reputation as a dedicated but rather uncharismatic servant of the regime.

A veteran deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards — the ideological army set up after the 1979 revolution to defend the clerical regime — Larijani also served as deputy minister of the Guards when such a ministry existed.

He has also served as a minister of culture and Islamic guidance, and in 1994 was appointed by Khamenei as head of the state television and radio network — another bastion of the religious right.

There, Larijani Islamised programming and oversaw production of a series called Hoviat (“Identity”), which harshly criticised moderate and secular intellectuals.

However, he also permitted Western films to be broadcast, albeit in heavily censored form.

Despite the new appointment, outgoing foreign minister Kamal Kharrazi insisted Iran was ready to resume talks with the European Union after its decision to resume uranium conversion, albeit on condition that its “legitimate rights” were respected.

“We are ready to negotiate under any circumstances but if our dossier is referred to the Security Council with political motivations it will create restrictions for us,” Kharrazi said.

“Brave Iranians, accustomed to foreign threats and pressures, will never give up their legitimate rights,” he was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi has already said that Iran’s resumption of uranium conversion is “not negotiable” despite the IAEA resolution urging the renewed suspension of all nuclear fuel cycle work

The IAEA, however, stopped short of referring the case to the UN Security Council, which could impose sanctions on Iran.

Asefi also cautioned the Europeans Sunday that their future attitude towards Iran would determine whether it decided to resume uranium enrichment as well.

Iranian media carried the text of a decree from the hardline president naming Larijani to the post.

“I expect you to bring a new dynamism to the council through your well-crafted and innovative policies … and to take the right decisions to guarantee national rights and interests in the defence of the Islamic revolution and the country’s security and integrity,” said the decree.

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