AFP: A top official said on Friday supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged MPs to approve President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's cabinet, the latest sign of open backing for the hardliner from Iran's powerful spiritual guide.
By Siavosh Ghazi
TEHRAN (AFP) — A top official said on Friday supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged MPs to approve President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's cabinet, the latest sign of open backing for the hardliner from Iran's powerful spiritual guide.
The ISNA news agency quoted Mohammad Reza Bahonar, deputy speaker of parliament, as saying that if Khamenei had not backed the proposed line-up, eight or nine nominees would have been rejected in Thursday's confidence vote.
"The message of the leader played a big role," Bahonar said.
The conservative-dominated parliament approved 18 out of 21 members of the proposed cabinet, rejecting two of three women nominees and Ahmadinejad's pick for energy minister.
"If we had not received the leader's recommendations, probably eight or nine ministers would have failed to win the vote of confidence, and that would not have been a good start for the government," said Bahonar, a well-known critic of the president.
He said Khamenei's "vision" prevented this from happening and "changed the view" of the majlis or parliament.
"If we had not received the message of the leader, the ministers of oil, industry, commerce, cooperatives, transport and foreign affairs would have been rejected," Bahonar added.
Khamenei has the final say in Iran's national issues and has openly defended Ahmadinejad's re-election despite massive public protests against his June 12 victory which triggered the Islamic republic's worst ever internal crisis.
Ahmadinejad's main opposition rivals have refused to accept his election victory, which they say was the result of massive vote rigging.
Hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters poured on to the streets of Tehran in the aftermath of the June election. In ensuing violence some 30 people were killed, officials say. Opposition groups say 72 died.
The crisis has divided the ruling elite and powerful clerical groups and shaken the very pillars of the Islamic regime.
Bahonar's comments once again reveal Khamenei's sustained support for Ahmadinejad who is battling the internal crisis at a time when Iran is under pressure from world powers to begin talks over its controversial nuclear drive.
World powers led by Washington have threatened Tehran with more sanctions if it does not resume talks on its nuclear programme.
On Thursday, parliament approved most of Ahmadinejad's cabinet, including the Islamic republic's first woman minister and a man wanted in connection with the bombing of a Jewish community centre in Argentina.
Nearly 80 percent of MPs approved Ahmad Vahidi — wanted by Argentina as a suspect in a 1994 Buenos Aires bombing that killed 85 people and wounded 300 — as defence minister.
Vahidi described his selection, by much the greatest margin of any nominee, as a "decisive slap to Israel," Iran's arch-enemy.
Washington called Vahidi's appointment a "step backward" for US-led efforts to end Iran's international isolation.
"Rather than taking a step forward" towards engaging the world, it is "taking a step backward by putting into high office" a man suspected of the Argentina bombing, State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said.
The sole woman minister will be Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi who takes the health portfolio in her first executive job in government.
Oil ministry nominee Masoud Mirkazemi, set to head the crucial portfolio of OPEC's second largest exporter, barely squeaked through during Thursday's vote which came after five days of heated debate.
"Some wanted to weaken the majlis and government. But the majlis and the government will stand hand in hand and punch the enemy in its face," Ahmadinejad said before the vote.