Published: Thu, February 28, 2019
Global Media | By Garry Long

Iran's Rouhani rejects resignation of foreign minister Zarif

Iran's Rouhani rejects resignation of foreign minister Zarif

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif spoke with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi over the phone and offered mediation between India and Pakistan, Reuters reported Wednesday.

Zarif, a US-educated veteran diplomat, helped craft a pact with world powers in 2015 that curbed Iran's nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief.

"As the Supreme Leader has described you a "trustworthy, fearless and religious" person in the forefront of resistance against widespread USA pressures, I consider accepting your resignation against national interests and reject it", Rouhani said in a letter published on state news agency IRNA. There was no immediate response from the 59-year-old diplomat.

The news came shortly after Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards general Qassem Soleimani said on Wednesday that Mr Zarif had the backing of the country's leader and remained the person in charge of the country's foreign policy. The president's praise was "a clear sign of the satisfaction of the representative of the people of Iran about the wise and effective positions and work of Dr Zarif", Vaezi wrote on Instagram.

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According to Indian news agency ANI , a PAF F-16 that "violated" Indian airspace was shot down in retaliatory fire by India. We have suffered tremendously", said State Minister of Interior Sherhryar Afridi at a conference in Islamabad.

Both Rouhani and Zarif face growing pressure from hard-liners and the public over the country's unraveling nuclear deal, which both men negotiated.

The foreign minister is "supported and approved by the system's top authorities, from the supreme leader down", he added. Many hardliners took issue with the deal to begin with because it forced Iran to compromise its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. Analysts say Rouhani is particularly vulnerable because of the economic crisis assailing the rial, which has hurt ordinary Iranians and emboldened critics to openly call for his ouster.

But the deal was later challenged by the administration of President Donald Trump, which pulled America out of the accord.

"Zarif is gone. Good riddance", Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday. Iran has always said its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, and United Nations inspectors say it is still complying with the 2015 nuclear accord.

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