Ahmadinejad packs government with allies

Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad revealed a new cabinet purged of critics and packed with loyalists and little-known figures today.

Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad revealed a new cabinet purged of critics and packed with loyalists and little-known figures today.

Ahmadinejad is forming his new government while still under pressure from claims by the pro-reform opposition that his victory in June elections was fraudulent.

However, he is also facing criticism from fellow conservatives for hoarding power by putting allies with little experience in key posts.

Parliament must approve the new government lineup, setting the stage for a possible fight over the nominees.

Parliament speaker Ali Larijani indirectly criticised Ahmadinejad, suggesting his nominees lacked experience and political weight.

"Ministers must have enough experience and expertise, otherwise a huge amount of the country's stamina will waste," he said. "A ministry is not a place for tryouts."

Mr Larijani appeared to focus on the nominee for intelligence minister - Heidar Moslehi, a close Ahmadinejad loyalist - as too inexperienced.

"A security official should have a vision" and know how to deal with both security and political issues, Mr Larijani said.

Parliament will hold a week of discussions on the ministers before voting on each minister separately on September 30.

Six of the nominees are from Ahmadinejad's previous government, although two of them are being moved to new ministries. Among them is Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, who will retain his post.

Defence Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, who is close to the elite Revolutionary Guard, has been nominated as the new interior minister, in charge of police.

The move could signal an even tougher domestic security stance amid the crackdown on the opposition following the disputed election. The opposition says at least 69 people have been killed in the fierce crackdown by police, the Revolutionary Guard and the Basij militia.

Ahmadinejad also appeared to have purged conservative critics. Gone from the list were four members of the outgoing government - the intelligence, culture, health and labour ministers - who criticised him earlier this month over his attempt to name a close associate, Esfandiar Mashai, as his top vice president.

The retention of Mr Mottaki as foreign minister suggested Ahmadinejad wants to keep the same face to the outside world - although the main issues of foreign policy like the rivalry with the US and negotiations over the nuclear program are mainly in the hands of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.

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