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Page last updated at 11:46 GMT, Monday, 31 August 2009 12:46 UK

Fight resumes over Iran cabinet

Education Minister-designate Sousan Keshavarz presents her case
Education Minister-designate Sousan Keshavarz faced stiff opposition

Iranian MPs have resumed a heated debate on the nominees for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's new cabinet.

The Majlis holds a confidence vote on Wednesday, but correspondents say the president is struggling to win backing in the predominantly conservative body.

The latest objections by MPs have been levelled at his choice for education minister, one of three women nominees.

Iran is mired in political turmoil after Mr Ahmadinejad's re-election, which triggered huge street protests.

Education Minister-designate Sousan Keshavarz presented her case in the 290-member Majlis, promising to privatise public schools and raise teachers' salaries. She also stressed her Islamic revolutionary credentials.

"I have grown up in a family which appreciates (Islamic) values and took part in religious events as well as in rallies against the shah's government... and have been a member of the women's Basij," she said in a speech quoted by AFP.

The Basij is the volunteer Islamic militia which has spearheaded a crackdown on opposition protests.

'Unqualified'

The influential education commission chairman, conservative Ali Abbaspour, said if Ms Keshavarz's nomination was passed she would have to be impeached.

"She has only a year's experience... and is talking of the same programmes outlined by previous ministers. The president has to nominate a strong minister," he was quoted as saying.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in parliament as MPs debate his cabinet line-up
Mr Ahmadinejad is struggling for support from fellow conservatives

Mr Ahmadinejad's other two women nominees, Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi and Fatemeh Ajorlou, are among 14 cabinet hopefuls who lack ministerial experience.

The cabinet needs approval from more than 50% of sitting MPs. The 220-member conservative bloc constitutes an overwhelming majority in the Majlis.

Iranian press reports described the exchanges between Mr Ahmadinejad and leading conservatives on the first day of the debate on Sunday as unprecedented.

Mr Ahmadinejad defended his government as the "cleanest" possible. He rejected accusations that he had simply chosen ministers who would be obedient "yes-men".

Conservatives and reformers alike accused him of nominating unqualified people without consulting MPs.

The defence minister-designate, Ahmad Vahidi, is wanted by Interpol in connection with a 1994 bombing in Argentina that killed 85 people, although some observers said that might bolster his support among hardliners in defiance of international pressure on Iran.

Mr Ahmadinejad's re-election was followed by massive street protests over alleged vote-rigging, in which at least 30 protesters were killed in clashes with police and the Basij.



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