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Reports: Ex-Iran Defense Chief Tapped to Lead Nuclear Team

Iran's state media on Monday said the country's incoming president has tapped a former defense minister to lead talks with six major governments on an intensifying atomic standoff, Reuters reported.

Tehran had yet to confirm claims that Mohammad Forouzandeh would take charge of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, going on point in the nuclear dispute after Iranian President-elect Hassan Rouhani takes office next week. Forouzandeh already sits on the security body, and served previously in the nation's elite Revolutionary Guard.

Washington and allied governments have for years suspected that Iran's ostensibly peaceful nuclear program is geared toward development of an arms capability. No solution to the dispute has emerged from years of discussions between Iranian diplomats and counterparts from China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Obama officials want to discuss the dispute with Rouhani's staff in September, the Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday. Separately, House lawmakers could vote as soon as this week to target Iran with new punitive measures. A high-level legislative insider said House approval of the penalties would "put enormous pressure on the Senate to act as well."

Rouhani apparently pushed successfully in 2003 to halt a clandestine Iranian nuclear arms development effort, a former French envoy to Iran wrote in a New York Times commentary published on Friday.

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