Iran think-tank head resigns after Zarif audio leak

Tehran (AFP) –


The head of an Iranian think-tank linked to the presidency has resigned after an audiotape leak in which the foreign minister complains over the military's influence, state news agency IRNA said Thursday.

Hesamodin Ashena of the Center for Strategic Studies resigned over "the theft" of the three-hour tape of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif being interviewed at the CSS.

Ashena, who held the post of Iranian deputy intelligence minister in the 2000s, has headed the centre since 2013 and also serves as adviser to President Hassan Rouhani.

IRNA said he was replaced by Ali Rabiei, the government spokesman, who said Tuesday that Rouhani had ordered an inquiry into the "conspiracy" of the leak.

Media outside Iran ran the audio of Zarif, triggering a heated debate inside the country ahead of the Islamic republic's June 18 presidential election.

Rouhani said the audio was leaked just as talks with world powers in Vienna on reviving a nuclear deal were "at the height of their success, so that it creates discord inside" Iran.

Zarif said in the recording, quoted by the New York Times: "In the Islamic republic the military field rules... I have sacrificed diplomacy for the military field rather than the field serving diplomacy."