19 Jul 2009

"Trust" needed in nuclear row - new official

8:08 am on 19 July 2009

The new head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation says Iran and the West need to renew efforts to build mutual trust and end a dispute over Tehran's nuclear programme.

It was the first official comment by Ali Akbar Salehi since he was named on Thursday as the head of the agency leading Iran's nuclear activities.

He told state television he hopes more efforts are made to gain mutual trust.

However, he made no suggestion that Iran would be prepared to halt or freeze nuclear work which the West suspects is aimed at making nuclear bombs.

Iran says the work is for peaceful purposes, to generate electricity.

Salehi, who has studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was Iran's former representative to the UN

International Atomic Energy Agency under the government of former President Mohammad Khatami.

His predecessor was Gholamreza Aghazadeh who announced his resignation on Thursday. He had held the post since 1997 and was also a vice president of Iran.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was re-elected on 12 June for a second four-year term, has ruled out prospects of Iran bowing to Western pressure and conducting talks on the issue.

His first term saw a steady expansion of nuclear enrichment activity which can have both civilian and military uses.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the ultimate say on all state matters like the nuclear dispute between Iran and the West.