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Iran's Parliament Approves 18 of 21 Cabinet Nominees


After five days of often bitter debate, the Iranian parliament has approved 18 out of 21 of President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's Cabinet picks. The candidate for defense minister won overwhelming approval, despite accusations of involvement in a 1994 bombing against a Jewish community center in Argentina.

Iran's soft-spoken parliament speaker Ali Larijani moderated the long and often noisy five-day debate leading to the approval, of 18 out of 21 Cabinet ministers in President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's new government.

Larijani read out the vote tallies for each of the 21 Cabinet posts, indicating which ministers had won approval and which had not.

He said out of 286 members of parliament, 227 voted to approve President Ahmedinejad's choice of Ahmed Vahidi as defense minister. The controversial Vahidi is the subject of an arrest warrant by Interpol for the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which left 85 people dead.

The voting took place in a calm and orderly fashion, despite the many outbursts during the long debate. Parliament members quietly stood in line to cast paper ballots for each of 21 cabinet nominees.

Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi took the oath of office, after winning parliamentary approval to become the first woman minister since the founding of the Islamic Republic in 1979. Dastjerdi, who is former member of parliament and a gynecologist by profession, will be Iran's new health minister.

Two other women cabinet picks failed to win the approval of parliament, after Speaker Larijani read out the vote tallies against them. Sousan Keshavaraz and Fatemeh Ajorlou were defeated after many members complained that they had insufficient experience.

Another of President Ahmedinejad's cabinet picks, Oil Minister Masoud Mirkazemi was narrowly approved, despite multiple attacks against him by the president's own parliamentary bloc.

President Ahmedinejad, flanked by speaker Larijani, stood alongside his new ministers and read off a list of goals for his new cabinet. Few analysts had expected his cabinet choices to win such broad approval, especially after his controversial re-election, following the disputed June 12 election.

Mr. Ahmedinejad told reporters, after the parliament vote, that Iran would not bow to world pressure over its nuclear program. "No one can impose sanctions on Iran, any longer," he insisted. "We welcome sanctions." He went on to say that Iran has "given its package of proposals" to the world community to debate and resolve the crisis.


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