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. New Iranian president to be sworn in amid nuclear crisis
TEHRAN (AFP) Aug 06, 2005
Iran's new President Mahmood Ahmadinejad is to be sworn in Saturday amid an increasingly tense standoff with the international community over its threat to resume controversial nuclear activities.

The swearing in at the majlis, or parliament, follows Ahmadinejad being formally installed as president on Wednesday, when he vowed to "plead for the suppression of all weapons of mass destruction."

But Iran plunged deeper into nuclear crisis Friday after rejecting a broad package of incentives offered by the European Union if it agreed to abandon all nuclear fuel work.

"As servant of the Iranian nation, I want to defend its independence, our national interests and the religion of Islam. I want to defend the interests of citizens both inside and outside the country," Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday.

It was the first indication from Ahmadinejad of how Iran will look under his rule. The first non-cleric to hold the post since 1981, he is Iran's sixth president since the revolution.

Ahmadinejad's crushing victory against regime veteran Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was thought to be down to his success in convincing Iranians he is an honest Muslim who cares about their economic problems.

Ahmadinejad, 49, an ultra-conservative former revolutionary guard, is expected to announce his cabinet within days, which will be seen as a barometer of where the Islamic republic is heading over the next four years.

Branded by his enemies before his June 24 victory as a dangerous extremist, the former Tehran mayor has vowed there will be "no place for extremism" in his government.

"The president will present his cabinet Sunday or Monday," conservative MP Fatemeh Aliya told AFP.

Ahmadinejad has promised a "moderate" government but has refused to reveal anything about his cabinet. Many fear that he will break with the thwarted reformist tendencies of his predecessor, Mohammad Khatami.

"Only myself and God know the (cabinet) list," Ahmadinejad said.

The cabinet may yet produce some surprises, with the conservatives now controlling all of the legislative and executive, although certain names crop up repeatedly in prospective lists published by the press or on the Internet.

The question of who will occupy the post of foreign minister is particularly sensitive given the ongoing nuclear crisis that may yet see Iran hauled before the UN Security Council.

Ultra conservative Ali Laridjani, a former boss of state-run media, is often cited as a potential head of the foreign ministry.

Other names, such as that of Iran's former representative at the UN's nuclear watchdog, Akbar Salehi, have also been mentioned.

The new government could be accompanied by a redistribution of tasks in the sensitive nuclear dossier, with Laridjani having called for responsibility to pass from the supreme national security council to the foreign ministry.

Hassan Rowhani, chief nuclear negotiator for the last two years, recently announced that he is to quit the post.

The departure of Rowhani, who has managed to maintain dialogue with the West through thick and thin, has worried some Western negotiators.

Hardliner Gholam Hossein Elham is likely to become the new cabinet chief, moving on from his post as spokesman for the ultraconservative bastion of the Guardian's Council and the judiciary.

The job of culture minister, frequently attacked for being too liberal under Khatami, is likely to go to Safar Harandi, who has just resigned from the ultra-conservative daily Kayhan.

Hossein Nejab and Kamal Daneshyar have meanwhile been tipped as possible future heads of the strategic oil ministry.

The new cabinet may also yet include women, a first since the 1979 Islamic revolution, said Aliya, the MP who is considered close to the president.

"The names of 30 women have been put forward for ministerial, vice-presidential or counselor posts," she said.

Ahmadinejad did not exclude the possibility when he met with the 10 women in parliament, although religious conservatives opposed Khatami when he tried to name a woman minister in 1997.

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