A relative moderate who has headed Iran's foreign ministry since 2011 on Friday received a nod from President Hassan Rouhani to lead the country's atomic energy organization, replacing a conservative who has held the post, Reuters reported.
As head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi would play no direct role in talks aimed at defusing a long-running global standoff over activities feared in Washington and other Western capitals to be stepping stones toward a nuclear bomb. However, the position would give him responsibility for overseeing Iran's atomic sites, and for attending a yearly gathering of International Atomic Energy Agency member states.
Former U.S. State Department official Mark Fitzpatrick called Salehi "the best of Ahmadinejad's ministers, a pragmatist who understands how the world works."
Salehi would succeed nuclear scientist Fereidoun Abbasi, who was the target of attempted violence three years ago.
"Having survived an assassination attempt, [Abbasi] seemed unable to overcome bitterness toward the West," Fitzpatrick said.
The appointment came one day after the Iranian legislature signed off on nearly all of Rouhani's cabinet nominations, including a new foreign minister deeply versed in dealing with the United States, the Los Angeles Times reported.