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Rupture of the regime? Iran's nuclear chief quits

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JERUSALEM – The man who heads Iran's nuclear program has stepped down, the ISNA news agency reported on Thursday, prompting speculation that the key Iranian official's departure may be related to the turmoil following the contested presidential election last month.

Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who has led the country's nuclear program for more than a decade, tendered a resignation that was accepted by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said ISNA (Iranian Students News Agency), a semi-official newswire. He also resigned his post as vice-president of the country.

Although no official reason was given for the resignation, which was apparently tendered more than two weeks ago, analysts say they see Mr. Aghazadeh's stepping down as a clear sign of ruptures in the upper levels of the Iranian regime.

"If he was a pro-Ahmedinejad man, he would have been happy, and he's obviously not," says Meir Javedanfar, an independent Iran analyst and coauthor of "The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran."

"Judging by the decision and the timing, he's unhappy about the way nuclear program is being managed," says Mr. Javedanfar, an Iranian-born writer who specializes in relations between Israel and Iran.

"Without a shadow of the doubt, the legitimacy of the regime has been damaged after the recent presidential elections, and with it, so has the nuclear program's legitimacy," he says.

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