Iran president rejects Mohammed Zarif's resignation

After Rouhani's announcement, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported that Zarif had attended a ceremony to welcome Armenia's prime minister to Tehran.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday expressed regret over recent clashes between India and Pakistan, asking the two countries to exercise self-restraint.

"I believe your resignation is against the country's interests and do not approve it", Rouhani wrote in a letter to Zarif, according to the government's official website.

The last straw appears to have been his exclusion from meetings with visiting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad earlier in the day, Iran's Entekhab news agency reported.

Assad was warmly received by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as well as Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the commander of an elite unit of the Revolutionary Guard.

A USA -educated career diplomat, Zarif led Iran's negotiating team during lengthy talks with the US and other world powers that culminated in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or "Iran deal", which lifted some sanctions against the Islamic Republic in exchange for commitments on its nuclear enrichment program.

"As a modest servant, I have never had any concern but elevating the foreign policy and the status of the foreign ministry", he said in the post.

It remains unclear what sparked Zarif's resignation.

Zarif "is indeed in charge of the Islamic Republic of Iran's foreign policy", Soleimani said in comments carried by the Guards' official website Sepah News.

Both Rouhani and Zarif face growing pressure from hard-liners and the public over the country's unraveling nuclear deal, which both men negotiated. He has been under pressure from hardliners in parliament over his handling of the fallout from Donald Trump's withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal.

The foreign minister is "supported and approved by the system's top authorities, from the supreme leader down", he added.

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, long a critic of Iran, welcomed his departure.

The son of a wealthy family, Zarif overcame hard-line objections and Western suspicions to strike the accord with world powers that saw Iran limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions. "Zarif is gone, good riddance".

  • Tracy Klein