Iran MPs endorse atomic chief as foreign minister

Ali Akbar Salehi said that nuclear issue was a key part of foreign policy.

Tehran: Iran`s Parliament on Sunday officially endorsed atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi as the Islamic republic`s foreign minister, who told lawmakers the nuclear issue was a key part of foreign policy.

Salehi`s candidacy was endorsed by 146 of the 241 lawmakers who voted in the conservative-dominated Parliament on Sunday, state television reported on its website.

"The nuclear issue is one of the important agendas of the foreign policy," Salehi said in his address to the Parliament prior to the vote.

Iran is at loggerheads with the West over its controversial nuclear programme and the latest round of talks between the two groups broke down in Istanbul earlier this month.

Western powers led by the United States suspect Iran is masking a weapons drive under the guise of a civilian atomic programme, a charge strongly denied by the Islamic republic.

Salehi, 61, who is also a vice president, oversees Iran`s nuclear programme and during his tenure the country`s first nuclear power plant has come on line.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad introduced Salehi to the Parliament prior to the vote and in his address said Iran needed a "foreign policy which is utterly transparent, active, powerful and influential”.

Iran`s nuclear programme has steadfastly grown under the presidency of Ahmadinejad who appointed Salehi on December 13 as the caretaker foreign minister after sacking Manouchehr Mottaki who headed the ministry for more than five years.

Salehi has been Iran`s atomic energy chief since July 2009. Before taking up the post, he was deputy chief of the Jeddah-based Organisation of the Islamic Conference.

He is a PhD graduate of the prestigious MIT in the United States and previously served as Tehran`s representative in the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency during the presidency of the reformist Mohammad Khatami.

Bureau Report