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Cabinet Lineup Confirms Iran's Hard Line Under New President

The president's intentions on the international front became clearer on Monday with the nomination of Ali Larijani to the post of secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Iran's top policy-making body. The outspoken hardliner will be in charge of the sensitive nuclear dossier at a time when Iran faces a crisis with the international community and the threat of being referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

Tehran (AFP) Aug 15, 2005
The cabinet lineup submitted to parliament by Iran's ultra-conservative President Mahmood Ahmadinejad signals the new hard line being adopted by the Islamic republic and a break with the reformist past.

Out of the 21 cabinet nominations presented on Sunday, only two of them previously held ministerial posts. The others are mostly unknowns, even to conservative MPs who are due to pass a confidence vote.

"There is a real will to break with the past and the presidencies of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (1988-1997) and Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005)," said Mohammad Atrianfar, a figure close to both Rafsanjani and his reformist successor.

"Even some members of the traditional right have been sidelined by the young generation of conservatives who are in revolt against their seniors," Atrianfar told AFP.

The Islamic Coalition Association, long a pillar of the right wing, was left out in the cold.

"The president has acted like he did when he became mayor of Tehran (in : he has made a clean break with the past," said a political commentator who asked not to be named.

Ahmadinejad has allocated political posts -- such as the interior ministry, intelligence and culture -- to fellow ultra-conservatives, while technocrats have been appointed to head the oil and foreign ministries.

The president's intentions on the international front became clearer on Monday with the nomination of Ali Larijani to the post of secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Iran's top policy-making body.

The outspoken hardliner will be in charge of the sensitive nuclear dossier at a time when Iran faces a crisis with the international community and the threat of being referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions.

Iran, however, has said its foreign policy will not change under the new government, especially as any decision on the nuclear file depends on a restricted circle around the country's supreme guide, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The candidate for the foreign minister's post, Manoushehr Mottaki, a moderate, is not expected to play a major role in the showdown over Tehran's decision to reject European incentives for abandoning its fuel cycle work.

Ahmadinejad himself is a devotee of Khamenei and his nomination of Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi to the interior ministry, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie to intelligence and Mohammad-Hossein Saffar-Harandi to culture is expected only to strengthen the supreme guide's hand.

Pour-Mohammadi for the past three years headed a political committee inside Khamenei's office, said Shargh newspaper.

And Saffar-Harandi, ex-chief editor of Kayhan newspaper and a former officer -- like Ahmadinejad -- in the Revolutionary Guards, the ideological army of the Islamic regime, is also considered close to the supreme guide.

Iraj Nadimi, a moderate MP, said the cabinet lineup includes four former members of the Guard and four former members of the intelligence services.

"But you can't draw any conclusions," Iran's Nobel peace prize laureate Shirin Ebadi told AFP, pointing out jailed dissident Akbar Ganji was a founder of the Revolutionary Guards and reformer Said Hajarian was in intelligence.

The regime's proposed break with the past may yet face difficulties.

Influential MP Ahmad Tavakoli dismissed the idea the conservative-dominated parliament was there to just rubber-stamp the nominations. "Some of the ministers will not pass a confidence vote," he told Jomhuri Islami newspaper.

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US Denies Rift With Germany Over Iran
Washington (AFP) Aug 15, 2005
The US State Department on Monday shrugged off suggestions of a rift between Washington and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder over the threat of using force to halt Iran's nuclear program.







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