DUBAI/GENEVA, Feb 26, (RTRS): Iranian President Hassan Rouhani held back from accepting the resignation of his foreign minister on Tuesday, standing by a moderate ally long targeted by hardliners in internal factional struggles over a 2015 nuclear deal with the West.
The minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif — a US-educated veteran diplomat who helped craft the pact that curbed Iran’s nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief — gave no reason for his decision to quit when he announced it on Instagram on Monday.
But his move thrust the schism between Iran’s hardliners and moderates into the open, effectively challenging Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to pick a side. An ally of Zarif said his resignation was motivated by criticism of the nuclear accord, under increasingly intense fire in Iran since the United States abandoned it last year. “There were closed-door meetings every week, where top offi- cials were bombarding him with questions about the deal and what will happen next and so on,” a Zarif ally told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “He and his boss (Rouhani) were under a huge amount of pressure.”
Since the United States walked out of the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions last year, Rouhani has had to explain why Iran has continued to abide by its restrictions while reaping virtually none of the foreseen economic benefits