Iran General NewsAhmadinejad Fills Cabinet With Hard-Liners

Ahmadinejad Fills Cabinet With Hard-Liners

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AP: Iran’s new president named a government Sunday replete with hard-liners in key ministries, nominations seen as likely to insure more confrontation with the West over the country’s nuclear program. None of the 21 ministers in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s proposed Cabinet are known to back democratic reforms. They are seen as followers of Iran’s conservative supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters. Associated Press

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI

Associated Press Writer

TEHRAN, Iran – Iran’s new president named a government Sunday replete with hard-liners in key ministries, nominations seen as likely to insure more confrontation with the West over the country’s nuclear program.

None of the 21 ministers in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s proposed Cabinet are known to back democratic reforms. They are seen as followers of Iran’s conservative supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters.

The proposed foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, has criticized Iran’s nuclear negotiations with the European Union and urged that the country adopt a tougher position and make no concessions.

Several other proposed ministers are either members of the Revolutionary Guards or have a history of cooperating with the Guards and security agencies, which take hard-line positions on Iran’s nuclear program.

If the new Cabinet is confirmed by parliament, it is expected to adopt more aggressive positions with the Europeans, who have been trying to persuade Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment program to avoid being referred to the U.N. Security Council for consideration of sanctions.

The United States and others contend Iran has a secret plan to build nuclear bombs – a charge Tehran denies.

Iran already rejected a resolution last week from the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency urging it to stop converting uranium into gas. Two Iranian officials repeated that stance Sunday, but said Tehran was willing to talk with the Europeans about Iran’s still suspended uranium enrichment program.

Conversion of uranium to gas is a step before enrichment, which produces material usable for both energy-producing reactor fuel and atomic bombs.

A former hard-line deputy intelligence minister, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, was named as interior minister. Ahmadinejad named as intelligence minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehei, a cleric whom reformist journalists regard as an unyielding opponent of press freedom.

The proposed Cabinet contained only one member of the outgoing government of former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who tried to moderate the Islamic social code and build bridges to the West. The centrist politician Mohammad Rahmati remained as transportation minister.

“All those who worked against Khatami’s reformist agenda have now been nominated to sit in the government,” the reformist writer Ali Reza Rajaei said. “Most of them are either former military commanders or people in close touch with security agencies.”

Political analyst Saeed Madani agreed, saying the appointment of people associated with security forces to executive positions would retard Iran’s progress.

“The list means Iran will behave more secretly in its dealings, both with the nation and the international community,” he said, adding it would also put greater emphasis on security.

No women were included in the nominated Cabinet. Khatami, who was president from 1997 until this month, did not appoint women to his Cabinets, but he appointed two women as vice presidents.

Ahmadinejad named his close ally Ali Saeedlou as oil minister. Saeedlou was Ahmadinejad’s deputy when he served as mayor of Tehran until the June elections.

Ahmadinejad has promised to purge the hierarchy in Iran’s oil administration. Outgoing Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh was at odds with some of the hard-liners who backed the new president in his election campaign.

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