Page last updated at 13:50 GMT, Saturday, 22 August 2009 14:50 UK

Row over Iran's women ministers

Sousan Keshavarz, one of three women nominated to Iran's cabinet
Sousan Keshavarz is one of three women nominated to Iran's cabinet

Conservative clerics in Iran have criticised a proposal by re-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to include three women in his new cabinet.

"There are religious doubts over the abilities of women when it comes to management," said hardline lawmaker Mohammad Taghi Rahbar.

He said his views were shared by many MPs from his clerics' faction, which dominates Iran's parliament.

The Islamic republic has not had female ministers since the 1979 revolution.

President Ahmadinejad was sworn in for a second term on 5 August after a disputed poll in June.

He unveiled his cabinet on Wednesday. MPs are expected to begin voting on a 21-member list at the end of the month.

'Considerable opposition'

On Saturday, Mr Rahbar said that leading Iranian clerics - including Grand Ayatollahs Nasser Makarem Shirazi and Lotfollah Safi Golpayghani - had "doubts about choosing female ministers and want Ahmadinejad to reconsider".

Defence: Ahmad Vahidi
Interior: Mostafa Mohammad Najjar
Foreign: Manouchehr Mottaki
Oil: Massoud Mirkazemi
Intelligence: Heydar Moslehi

He said his parliamentary faction would be seeking the opinion of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on the issue.

Aytollah Yousef Tabatabai, a top cleric in the central city of Isfahan, also expressed his opposition to Mr Ahmadinejad's decision.

"We hope what the president said about the women ministers is not recognised by parliament," he was quoted as saying by Iran's conservative Tehran Emrouz newspaper.

Women included in Mr Ahamdinejad's list would head up the country's health, social welfare and education ministries.

Analysts say Mr Ahmadinejad is also expected to face opposition over the list from moderates, who say his government lacks legitimacy.

Separately, Mr Ahmadinejad has been criticised by Argentina and Israel for nominating Ahmad Vahidi as new defence minister.

Mr Vahidi has been on on Interpol "wanted" list since 2007 in connection with the 1994 bombing of a Jewish centre in Argentina, in which 85 people died.

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