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Iran approves hard-line cabinet: loyalty over experience?

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Iran’s parliament approved an overwhelming majority of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s cabinet nominees on Thursday, overriding criticisms that he had favored loyalty over competence in choosing some key ministers.

"The president wants to be the ruler in sensitive ministries. So he has introduced people whose major quality is that they are 'yes-men,' " conservative lawmaker Ali Motahari told the Mehr News Agency ahead of deliberations.

Among the most controversial nominees approved were:

Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi, wanted by Argentina for the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center.

• Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi, whom critics say has never worked in intelligence.

Masoud Mirkazemi, who will be overseeing the oil ministry of the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter but who has no previous experience in the industry.

All three – as well as Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najar – have been linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary organization that publicly took responsibility for curbing post-election dissent this summer.

And over the protests of conservative religious leaders, lawmakers approved the first female minister in the history of the Islamic republic – Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, who will oversee the Health Ministry. A gynecologist with little administrative experience who has suggested health care be gender-segregated, she was criticized by reformers as too traditional and hard-line to advance women’s rights.


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