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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 August, 2005, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
Iranian leader picks hardliners
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday, 26 June
Mr Ahmadinejad has said he wants a constructive foreign policy
Iran's newly elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has nominated a string of known hardliners for key positions in his first cabinet.

Conservative candidates were earmarked for the foreign, intelligence and interior ministries.

The appointments come as concern mounts over Iran's resumption of uranium processing at its Isfahan nuclear site.

On Friday US President George W Bush refused to rule out a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.

Mr Ahmadinejad, a conservative former mayor of Tehran, won a surprise election victory in June.

He was widely viewed as a hardliner but promised to appoint a government of "moderation".

His appointments must be approved in a confidence vote by Iran's parliament, the Majlis, within a week.

New guard

The three most prominent new members are all known for conservative views:

  • Manouchehr Mottaki, foreign minister, is a former ambassador to Japan and Turkey who has strongly backed Iran's nuclear programme and supported the move to resume uranium conversion

  • Mostafa Pourmohammadi, interior minister, is a hardline former deputy intelligence minister

  • Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehei, intelligence minister, is an Islamic cleric thought to be an opponent of press freedom.

All three men are understood to be followers of Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Just two clerics were named to the cabinet, and no women were appointed.

Mohammad Rahmati, minister of roads and transport, was the only minister to survive from Mr Khatami's cabinet.

A former ally of Mr Amhadinejad from his days as Tehran mayor, Ali Saeedlou, was appointed to run the oil ministry, despite no apparent experience in the industry.

Policy signals

Correspondents say the conservative leanings of the new government is likely to signal a shift in policy away from the reformist tendencies of former President Mohammed Khatami.

Iran has already adopted a tough stance on a key foreign policy issue, the ongoing dispute over its nuclear programme, since Mr Ahmadinejad won power.

Negotiations with the "EU3" of Britain, France and Germany were suspended last week as Iran resumed uranium conversion at Isfahan.

In comments to Israeli TV, President Bush said on Friday that the US might use force against Iran as a last resort.

His comments were criticised on Saturday by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

"Let's take the military option off the table. We have seen it doesn't work," he told a re-election rally.

Hear Iran's chief delegate defend his country's position

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