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Iran's foreign minister resigns abruptly after visit from Syrian leader

By
Clyde Hughes
Iranians hold a picture of Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in celebration in 2015 after a landmark nuclear deal was reached between Tehran and a Western coalition led by the United States. File Photo by Saba Taherian/UPI
Iranians hold a picture of Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in celebration in 2015 after a landmark nuclear deal was reached between Tehran and a Western coalition led by the United States. File Photo by Saba Taherian/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif, one of the architects of the 2015 nuclear deal, resigned late Monday, leaving Tehran without its best-known diplomat.

Zarif had been the target of Iranian hardliners, which increased when President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the multinational nuclear deal last year. The pact was created to halt Iran's effort to move toward nuclear weapon technology in exchange for the thawing of sanctions.

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Zarif's resignation came after a perceived snub Monday in which he was excluded from meetings between Iranian leaders and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on a rare visit to Tehran. Assad met with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hasan Rouhani.

The foreign minister made the announcement in an Instagram post.

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"I extend my gratitude for the generosity that dear and brave people of Iran and its respected authorities have had during past 67 months," Zarif wrote. "I humbly apologize for the inability to continue serving and for all the shortcomings during my service."

Perhaps more telling was his interviews with Iranian media, in which he described in-fighting between moderates and hardliners, calling it a "deadly poison."

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"We first have to remove our foreign policy from the issue of party and factional fighting," Zarif said in an interview that appeared Tuesday in Jomhuri Eslami. "The deadly poison for foreign policy is for foreign policy to become an issue of party and factional fighting."

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It wasn't immediately clear if Rouhani accepted his resignation.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Twitter Monday the Trump administration's policy toward Iran has not changed and the country's real power lies with Khamenei.

"We'll see if it sticks," Pompeo said. "Either way, he and [Rouhani] are just front men for a corrupt religious mafia. We know [Khamenei] makes all final decisions. Our policy is unchanged-the regime must behave like a normal country and respect its people."

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