Iran General NewsIran MPs to debate oil and interior ministries

Iran MPs to debate oil and interior ministries

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ImageAFP: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's nominees for the key oil and interior portfolios were Wednesday to outline their four-year plans to Iranian MPs, as parliament prepared to vote on the new cabinet.

By Farhad Pouladi

ImageTEHRAN (AFP) — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's nominees for the key oil and interior portfolios were Wednesday to outline their four-year plans to Iranian MPs, as parliament prepared to vote on the new cabinet.

Parliamentary debate on Ahmadinejad's line-up began on Sunday and was expected to end later Wednesday with a vote of confidence on each of the 21 nominees.

So far, 15 nominees have presented their four-year plans to lawmakers, with several coming under fire for their inexperience from conservative MPs, Ahmadinejad's main support base.

Among those expected on Wednesday to detail their plans are Masoud Mirkazemi, the current commerce minister who has been proposed for the oil ministry, and Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, current defence minister who is interior minister nominee.

The oil ministry is important in Iran — OPEC's second largest exporter — and the export earnings from crude sales amount to 80 percent of the Islamic republic's foreign revenue.

Iranian media says Mirkazemi is expected to come under careful scrutiny by lawmakers as he lacks expertise in the vital sector.

He was also nearly impeached twice as commerce minister over the rise in basic commodity prices.

In 2005, when Ahmadinejad was presenting his first-ever cabinet, parliament twice rejected his nominees for the oil ministry, one withdrew before a vote was taken, and finally lawmakers confirmed his fourth choice.

Mohammad Najjar too will be closely watched as the interior ministry which oversees internal security has become a crucial portfolio at a time when Iran is increasingly isolated from the world over recent post-election unrest and due to its atomic drive.

Observers say that Najjar's military background would be carefully scrutinised by MPs to determine his suitability for the interior portfolio.

Ahmadinejad has previously sacked one interior minister, while another was impeached, before Sadeq Mahsouli, a decorated military commander and close advisor of president, became the minister.

So far, lawmakers have not opposed the president's nominees for the communication, economy, agriculture, justice and defence ministries.

Proposed defence minister Ahmad Vahidi in fact was unanimously backed after Argentina, which claims he had a role in a 1994 Buenos Aries bombing, triggered triggered global outrage at his selection.

Two women cabinet nominees — education and welfare — are expected to be rejected as they lack ministerial experience and also face opposition from the country's hardline clerics.

But the third woman nominee set to head the health ministry, Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, is expected to win the vote after she presented an elaborate four-year plan on Tuesday.

If she does gain the vote of MPs, Dastjerdi would be the first female cabinet minister in the Islamic republic's 30-year history.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki is expected to retain his job given his experience at a time when Iran is at loggerheads with global powers over its nuclear programme.

Debate over the selection of proposed science minister Kamran Daneshjoo, who headed the election commission and had come in for intense flak during the turmoil over Ahmadinejad's re-election, proved a heated affair on Wednesday.

Iranian media says he obtained his PhD degree from a fictitious college, but parliament speaker Ali Larijani defended him, saying he obtained his certificate in Tehran after he was kicked out of a London college for "participating in a rally opposing" Indian born British writer Salman Rushdie.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic republic of Iran, had issued a death fatwa against Rushdie in the 80s over his controversial book "Satanic Verses".

MP Hossein Tamini opposed Daneshjoo's candidacy.

"He is considered as a political figure… I do not think it is appropriate to have him lead the ministry. It is very difficult to change people's view about someone," he said in the chamber.

But powerful conservative MP Ali Motahari backed Daneshjoo, saying his "academic qualifications were higher than his political activities."

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