Iran's parliament to decide on Rouhani's cabinet

Tehran, Aug 12 (IANS) Iran's parliament is set to meet Monday to start the vetting process for the proposed 18-member cabinet of President Hassan Rouhani, Xinhua reported.

Rouhani, Iran's new president who won the June 14 presidential election, unveiled the proposed list of nominees for his cabinet during his inauguration ceremony Aug 4.

The list included 11 pro-reform or moderate figures and nine Independents or conservatives in the proposed cabinet.

Faced with the pressure of conservative-dominated parliament, he would appear before the lawmakers Monday to defend his choices for the ministerial positions.

Hardline legislators along with a section of the media have criticised Rouhani for reform-oriented composition of the next administration.

According to some media reports, some of the hardline legislators have urged the pro-reform nominees to renounce the "fraudulent claims" saying the 2009 presidential elections in Iran were rigged in favour of outgoing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

This would serve as a prerequisite for some of the reformist choices of Rouhani to receive vote of confidence from parliament, the conservatives suggest.

Mir-Hossein Mousavi, an Iranian reformist politician who was defeated in the 2009 presidential election, alleged that the results of the election were rigged in favour of Ahmadinejad.

In the June 14 poll, Rouhani enjoyed the support of articulative pro-reform camp and reformist candidate Mohammad-Reza Aref who withdrew in his favour.

Faced with the heritage of an ailing economy and troubled foreign relations, the Iranian president has vowed to mend Iran's ties with the West and to revive the country's economy which is dependant mostly on oil and natural gas sales.

The country's energy and financial sectors are under intensive pressure from the US and its allies, who suspect that Iran's nuclear programme might aim at weapon-grade activities while Iran insists that it is only for civilian use.

To tackle the existing problems, Rouhani has proposed nominees for key economic and political positions from the experienced technocrats, most of whom served as ministers or officials either under former moderate president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani or under Khatami in the past.

Among the proposed ministers, pro-reform Bijan Namdar-Zanganeh is the oil minister. He served as the minister of energy from 1988-97 and as Iran's oil minister from 1997-2005.

Mohammad-Javad Zarif, Iran's former permanent representative to the UN and a member of Iran's nuclear negotiating team led by Rouhani from 2003-05, has been nominated for the post of foreign minister.

Last week, Rouhani appointed reformist politician Eshaq Jahangiri as his first vice president, expressing hope that he would fulfil his future duties in accordance with law and principles of "moderation".

The vetting procedures will be probably wrapped up Wednesday evening when Rouhani's cabinet line-up will be decided by the parliamentarians, according to semi-official Fars news agency.