January 30, 2011 / 9:47 AM / 9 years ago

FACTBOX-Nuclear scientist approved as Iran foreign minister

TEHRAN, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Iran’s parliament narrowly approved President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s close ally Ali Akbar Salehi as foreign minister on Sunday.

Following are key facts about him:

* Ahmadinejad appointed Salehi caretaker foreign minister in December after abruptly sacking Manouchehr Mottakki who was on an official visit to Africa. Ahmadinejad wanted Salehi, 61, to be his foreign minisgter when he became president in 2005, but factional pressures forced him to accept Mottaki.

* Salehi, Iran’s former ambassador to the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency, earned a nuclear engineering doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1970s and speaks fluent English and Arabic.

* Salehi has defended Ahmadinejad’s position that Iran has a right to, and is pursuing, nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, against countries that believe Tehran is seeking nuclear weapons. His appointment is unlikely to change Iran’s nuclear policy or the broad lines of its foreign policy. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the last word on all state matters.

* Born in Kerbala, the Iraqi city holy to Shi’ite Muslims, Salehi became an under-secretary general of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in 2005. His affinity with Arab countries worried about Iran’s nuclear ambitions may be useful in his new role.

* Salehi has been a driving force behind Iran’s nuclear programme and performed a political coup de theatre one day before Iran resumed talks with major world powers in December by announcing that Iran had made its own uranium concentrates for a key enrichment plant for the first time — a defiant signal that Iran would not back down on the nuclear issue. (Editing by Tim Pearce)

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