Monday, December 13, 2010

Atom chief becomes acting foreign minister

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has unceremoniously replaced Manouchehr Mottaki, the longtime foreign minister of the Islamic Republic, with the head of the country's Atomic Energy Agency, Ali Akbar Salehi, according to a terse statement posted to the presidency's site early Monday afternoon.

Salehi was named the caretaker of the ministry as any change to the cabinet must be confirmed by the legislature before it becomes official. Article 135 of the constitution allows the president to name a caretaker minister for a maximum of three months.

This development may signal a new round of acrimony between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Majlis. Mottaki reportedly enjoyed broad support in the parliament and had been endorsed by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a televised meeting with the government on August 30. 'If Mottaki is replaced, the president should expect a strong reaction from the Majlis,' Mohammad Karamirad, member of the national security and foreign affairs committee of the legislature, had said around the same time.

The president's office published a two-sentence decree appointing Salehi and a separate short letter thanking Mottaki for his service. No further information or explanation was provided in the statement.

The dismissal appears particularly brusque since Mottaki is currently in Senegal, bearing a message from Ahmadinejad to President Abdoulaye Wade.

Alaeddine Boroujerdi, the chairman of the national security and foreign affairs committee, told Khabar Online's reporter that he was unaware of the news. 'Isn't Mr. Mottaki on a trip?' he asked the reporter. 'You mean the dismissal decree was issued while he was on a mission?'

Boroujerdi directed the reporter to contact Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast for more information.