DUBAI, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Iran has appointed a backstage strategist in nuclear talks with world powers as chief of foreign petroleum contracts, the oil ministry said, a job that will hinge largely on any settlement of its atomic dispute with the West.
Amir-Hossein Zamaninia is a veteran diplomat who was sidelined under hardline former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad before resurfacing as adviser on the nuclear negotiations revived by moderate President Hassan Rouhani.
Zamaninia will replace former Deputy Oil Minister for International Affairs Ali Majedi, who left three months ago to become ambassador to Germany, the ministry said on its website.
The U.S.-educated Zamaninia will keep his present portfolio as adviser to the nuclear negotiating team, a post he also held under Ahmadinejad’s predecessor, reformist president Mohammad Khatami, when Rouhani himself was the chief negotiator.
Rouhani wants to draw foreign investment in Iran’s economically vital oil and gas sectors, hobbled by many years of isolation because of international sanctions. But this will depend on the outcome of the high-level nuclear negotiations under way for over a year with no clear resolution in sight.
The powers seek verifiable curbs on Iran’s uranium enrichment programme to ensure it cannot be put to developing atomic bombs, in exchange for a phased lifting of sanctions.
After Iran and the powers last month failed for a second time to meet a deadline for ending the 12-year-old stand-off, they extended a November 2013 preliminary deal, which won Iran limited sanctions relief, until June 30.
Western officials say Iran has not budged on major sticking points, including the size and scope of its future enrichment programme and the pace at which sanctions would be dropped.
Tehran says its nuclear energy programme is wholly peaceful although its history hiding sensitive nuclear activity from U.N. non-proliferation inspectors raised suspicions. (Reporting by Mehrdad Balali; Editing by Mark Heinrich)