Robert Malley, the US special envoy for Iran, is “on leave” from his responsibilities, the State Department confirmed on Thursday, pending what he said was a review of his security clearance.
“Rob Malley is on leave and Abram Paley is serving as acting special envoy for Iran and leading the department’s work in this area,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.
Mr Malley has been the point man on Iran for President Joe Biden's administration and led efforts to try to reach a new nuclear deal, after the US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action under former president Donald Trump in 2018.
“I have been informed that my security clearance is under review,” he told Reuters.
“I have not been provided any further information, but I expect the investigation to be resolved favourably and soon. In the meantime, I am on leave.”
The National left a message for Mr Malley but he did not immediately comment.
Before working as the Iran special envoy, he was president and chief executive of the International Crisis Group.
Mr Malley was also a special assistant to then-president Barack Obama, and the White House co-ordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf from 2015 to 2016.
His leave of absence comes as indirect discussions between Washington and Tehran have picked up in recent months.
In May, US officials travelled to Oman, where they held indirect talks with Iranian authorities, according to Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman.
News of indirect talks sparked rumours that the two countries may be close to an informal agreement that would see Iran capping its nuclear ambitions in exchange for funds that have been frozen by US sanctions.
Washington has repeatedly denied any such deal is close.