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Page last updated at 17:16 GMT, Thursday, 20 August 2009 18:16 UK

Iranian president rewards loyalty

By Jon Leyne
BBC Tehran Correspondent

President Ahmadinejad
President Ahmadinejad has rewarded loyalty in his cabinet appointments

Under pressure from almost all sides following his controversial re-election, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has gone for loyalty over experience in his new cabinet.

Several of the ministers are relatively young and little known.

Others have been accused of lacking knowledge of their relevant departments.

The nominations come despite repeated calls from parliament for the president to choose a more competent team.

It seems almost a deliberate provocation, that is bound to lead to a new battle between the president and parliament, which has to approve the appointments.

Reaction

Already there has been criticism from one of the Deputy Speakers of Parliament, Mohammad Reza Bahonar, who said he believed four or five of the nominees would be rejected by parliament - though he did not specify which.

The influential Speaker of Parliament, Ali Larijani, gave a more coded criticism.

How can someone who has not spent a single day of their lives in intelligence work...be suitable for the intelligence ministry?
MP Ahmad Tavakoli

He was quoted by state radio as saying that a minister must have experience and expertise - "a ministry is not a place for tryouts," he said.

One of the targets for criticism is the new Intelligence Minister, Heidar Moslehi.

He replaces Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi, who was sacked by Mr Ahmadinejad after the election during the bitter row over the appointment of Vice-President Mashaie.

The influential conservative MP Ahmad Tavakoli asked: "How can someone who has not spent a single day of their lives in intelligence work, whose most important work was as the head of a charitable organisation, be suitable for the intelligence ministry?"

However, to be named for the intelligence ministry, Mr Moslehi is likely to have the approval of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

He was also Mr Khamenei's representative in the Basij militia, an indication of the growing power of the militia in the government.

So that should secure his approval by parliament.

Revolutionary Guards

Another controversial appointment is the proposal of Masoud Mirkazemi for the important post of oil minister.

He is currently the commerce minister, but has been accused of having little knowledge of the oil industry.

His close links with the Revolutionary Guards are a sign of their growing influence over the government.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki
Manouchehr Mottaki has been nominated to stay as foreign minster

The Revolutionary Guards now control the Basij militia, at least in theory, though some observers believe there are divisions between the two organisations.

The Industry Minister, Ali Akbaar Mehrabian, has been re-appointed despite his recent conviction for fraud.

Then there is the nomination of three women for cabinet posts.

They would be the first women ministers in the 30 years of the Islamic Republic.

But the names are unlikely to be welcomed by conservatives, who are uneasy about seeing women in leadership positions, or reformists who do not like the hardline views of the three women.

Internal security

A key figure in the running of the disputed presidential election, Kamran Daneshju, has been given the ministerial post in charge of universities.

He is a close and hardline ally of Mr Ahmadinejad, suggesting the president is already getting ready for student protests that are expected to break out when the university term begins in a month.

Another important security appointment is the move of the Defence Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar to the interior ministry.

He is another man closely connected with the Revolutionary Guards, a further indication of their growing power over internal security.

After much speculation about the post of foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki has been nominated to remain in the job.

This might give some small reassurance to the West about the possibility of new talks on the nuclear issue, though Mr Mottaki is not seen as a particularly influential voice in setting Iran's foreign policy.

The Iranian parliament, the Majlis, is expected to begin a debate and votes over the names on 30 August.

In 2005, after Mr Ahmadinejad's first election victory, the Majlis rejected four of his ministerial nominations.

The members of the Majlis are overwhelmingly conservative, but there is a growing hostility towards Mr Ahmadinejad even in conservative circles.

It could be a long and bruising debate.

Much will depend on how much support Ayatollah Khamenei is prepared to give to the man whose re-election he has already endorsed.



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