Iran’s top international negotiator, Abbas Araghchi, has been replaced by a hardline critic of the 2015 nuclear deal as world powers press Tehran and Washington to quickly revive the ailing accord after months of stalled talks.
Ali Bagheri Kani will take over from Mr Araghchi as deputy foreign minister for political affairs, effective immediately, following a reshuffle announced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday. Mr Araghchi will be retained as an adviser to Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian.
It is not clear whether Mr Bagheri Kani will also assume Mr Araghchi’s more important role of chief negotiator in efforts to revive the nuclear accord, which were put on hold after the election of President Ebrahim Raisi in June.
The move means that one of Iran’s most experienced envoys – involved in six rounds of talks this year – may no longer be officially involved in efforts to restore the 2015 deal that reins in Tehran’s nuclear programme in exchange for relief from economic sanctions, including those choking its oil exports.
Former US president Donald Trump quit the multinational accord, but President Joe Biden’s administration supports efforts to rekindle it.
Mr Bagheri Kani was a senior nuclear negotiator a decade ago during the presidency of hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when talks to end a standoff with the West over Iran’s nuclear programme were not successful. He is also close to the ultraconservative judiciary that Mr Raisi used to lead before being elected president.
Although he is an experienced official and is aligned with some of the country’s most powerful institutions, Mr Bagheri Kani does not have extensive international experience and little is known about his foreign-language abilities.