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Report: Iran's nuclear chief resigns

  • Story Highlights
  • Chief of Iran's nuclear program for a decade has resigned, reports say
  • Reza Aghazadeh was appointed in 1997 under reformist President Khatami
  • He has largely stayed out of politics, especially turmoil since disputed election
  • Iran must find someone trusted by clerical rulers and accepted by rest of world
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TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- The commander of Iran's nuclear program for more than a decade has resigned, Iran Student News Agency reported Thursday.

Reza Aghazadeh has largely stayed out of politics.

Reza Aghazadeh has largely stayed out of politics.

Reza Aghazadeh told ISNA that he submitted his resignation 20 days ago. He said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has now accepted it.

Aghazadeh, who gave no reason for his decision, was promoted to Iran's vice president of atomic energy in 1997 under reformist President Mohammad Khatami.

As head of Iran's atomic program, Aghazadeh was practically handpicked by the senior figures in Iran's clerical establishment and fully trusted by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

He has largely stayed out of politics and refrained from publicly taking sides amid the political turmoil that recently gripped Iran following last month's disputed presidential vote, which triggered massive protests.

His resignation is significant because it will be difficult for Iran to find someone that is both trusted by the clerical rulers and accepted by the international community.

Iran has refused international calls to suspend its production of enriched uranium, which it insists will be used to fuel civilian nuclear power plants.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that Iran has the right to a peaceful nuclear program "if it re-establishes the confidence of the international community" that its nuclear technology will not be put to military use.

CNN's Shirzad Bozorgmehr contributed to this report.

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