Iran president to pick cabinet, nuclear team
By Jon Hemming
TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran’s new President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
promises to deliver a “new era of justice,” but for now he has
to pick a cabinet accepted by hard-liners who helped elect him
and deal with a diplomatic row over nuclear policy.
Ahmadinejad inherits a diplomatic stand-off the European
Union has warned could end in Iran referred for U.N. sanctions
if it does not back down from its threat to restart nuclear
work the bloc suspects might be aimed at building an atomic
The former Revolutionary Guard began his first day in
office on Thursday issuing austere edicts asking for his
picture not to be put up in government offices and ordering
civil servants not to waste money sending him letters of
The real work of his government begins after Saturday when
he takes the oath of office and announces his cabinet which is
expected to contain a blend of conservatives and technocrats.
His choices are likely to be determined by deference to
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s most powerful
figure, whose hand Ahmadinejad bent over and kissed as his
first act as president.
“He has to consult with the Supreme leader,” said a
political analyst who declined to be named. “He came to power
with the hard-liners’ backing, now he has to satisfy them.”
The nuclear issue is set to dominate the opening of
Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rohani said on
Wednesday he might be removed by Ahmadinejad, but said there
would be no policy change under a new negotiating team.
“Iran’s nuclear policy is … decided by top officials. It
will not be changed,” he told state television.
Local media have said former state broadcasting chief Ali
Larijani, a hard-liner close to Khamenei, would replace Rohani
and take charge of the nuclear negotiations with the EU.
A nuclear expert is also tipped for the Foreign Ministry.
Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran’s former envoy to the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with a doctorate in nuclear
physics, is a strong contender for foreign minister, newspapers
Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, after eight years heading the oil
ministry and 22 years as a minister, is also due for a change,
something he hinted strongly at last week.
“This is the last news conference I am attending as the oil
minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said.
Establishment hard-liners have repeatedly criticized
Zanganeh for what they call rampant corruption, especially in
the negotiation of Iran’s buy-back oil deals.
Ahmadinejad’s candidates for oil minister of OPEC’s second
biggest producer have provoked mixed emotions in foreign
executives, though they do not expect radical change in policy.
The list of five possible successors includes several
unknown quantities to oil multinationals — among them acting
mayor of Tehran Ali Saeedlou, Hossein Nejabat — a member of
the parliamentary energy commission and Kamal Daneshyar who
heads the energy commission.
The safest bets for foreign energy investors are deputy oil
minister Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh, who heads the state-run
National Petrochemical Company (NPC) and Ali Beheshtian, a
former deputy oil minister for onshore affairs who manages the
petrochemical industry’s investment company.
The new ministers are expected get the necessary approval
in cabinet with few hitches, though some of Ahmadinejad’s
allies who dominate the assembly have warned him not to think
of incorporating any reformers from the ousted government.
Reformers too say they want nothing to do with the new
government so as not to be tarred by any its failures.
“The cabinet should be from the same political group. Such
cabinet will take full responsibility for its actions,” the
Aftab-e Yazd newspaper quoted the brother of the last president
and leading reformer Mohammad Reza Khatami as saying.