Reuters: Iran's parliament began a session Sunday to debate and vote on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's proposed new cabinet following his disputed re-election in June.
By Zahra Hosseinian
TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran's parliament began a session Sunday to debate and vote on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's proposed new cabinet following his disputed re-election in June.
The outcome is seen as a test of the hardline president's hold on power after the election, which plunged Iran into its deepest internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Some members of parliament have said they are likely to reject several nominees because of their lack of experience.
"It is a weak cabinet … we see that some proposed ministers without having any experience in that ministry have been placed at the top of it," MP Ali Motahari said, singling out the candidates for the oil, energy and interior posts.
But another deputy, Hossein Garousi, voiced support for the proposed 21-member cabinet, saying Ahmadinejad had taken "all important criteria" into account.
Parliament is expected to spend three days debating the cabinet, with voting on each minister to take place on Wednesday, the official IRNA news agency said.
Political analysts expect it to approve a cabinet eventually but a stormy process could damage Ahmadinejad politically.
The president told parliament he planned "important steps forward" during his second four-year term.
"In the new government we are prepared to serve people with all our might … and I'm certain parliament is going to support us," he said in comments translated by Iran's state Press TV.
In foreign policy, he said Iran "should have constructive interaction with all nations and countries with the exception of the illegal Zionist entity," referring to Israel.
Ahmadinejad's proposed cabinet includes three women ministers, for the posts of education, health and social welfare. They would be the first female ministers in the socially conservative Islamic Republic.
The nominees also include Commerce Minister Massoud Mirkazemi as oil minister, a key position as crude sales account for most state revenue. Mirkazemi is seen as an Ahmadinejad ally but has little known oil industry experience.
In 2005, the president failed to get his first three choices for oil minister appointed because of parliament's opposition.
The new oil minister faces the challenge of boosting oil and gas output under U.S. and U.N. sanctions, imposed because of a dispute over Iran's nuclear program. The West suspects Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons while Iran says its program is exclusively for peaceful power generation.
Mirkazemi and the proposed intelligence and interior ministers have a background with the elite Revolutionary Guards, as does Ahmadinejad. The force, seen as fiercely loyal to the Islamic Republic's values, appears to have grown in political and economic influence since he came to power four years ago.
The legislature is dominated by conservatives, but some of Ahmadinejad's supporters have abandoned him since the election, even though he enjoys the backing of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's highest authority.
The president's moderate foes say the June 12 election was rigged in his favor and regard the government as illegitimate. The authorities deny the opposition's vote fraud charges.
(Writing by Fredrik Dahl; editing by Robin Pomeroy)