Iran's Ahmadinejad Misses Deadline to Submit List of Cabinet Picks

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in an interview Sunday that he was looking for team players.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in an interview Sunday that he was looking for team players. (By Vahid Salemi -- Associated Press)
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By Thomas Erdbrink
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, August 20, 2009

TEHRAN, Aug. 19 -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday ignored a constitutional deadline for submission of the names of his 21 new cabinet picks, although several news agencies close to the government released the names of the purported nominees, with the exception of the proposed justice minister.

It was unclear when Ahmadinejad would present the definitive list. A live presidential TV appearance scheduled for Wednesday was postponed a day, an aide said.

The president's noncompliance with the deadline pits him against parliament at the outset of what is expected to be a tense confrontation over his cabinet team. Lawmakers are required to approve the selection within two weeks.

"This is the first constitutional violation by the government" in its second term, deputy parliament speaker Mohammad-Reza Bahonar told the semiofficial Mehr News Agency.

Although most of parliament's 290 members share Ahmadinejad's broad convictions about confronting the West and helping the poor, many take issue with the way he governs. During his last term, they impeached several of his ministers.

Heading parliament is speaker Ali Larijani, who in 2007 was removed, on Ahmadinejad's advice, as Iran's top negotiator with the West on the country's nuclear program. Larijani has warned that ministerial positions cannot be entrusted to the inexperienced, a sign that relatively unknown candidates might not win parliament's approval.

The list that circulated Wednesday, however, showed a mix of young faces, some older hands and, unexpectedly, three women -- a first since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Former members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps are proposed for several key posts, including the Interior, Oil, Intelligence and Defense ministries, according to the Iranian Labor News Agency and other news outlets.

No members of defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi's faction were on the list.

Lawmakers noted that the apparent nominee to head the Oil Ministry, current Commerce Minister Massoud Mirkazemi, has little known experience in the oil sector -- a concern given Iran's position as the world's fourth-largest producer of crude.

In a televised interview Sunday, Ahmadinejad said he was looking for team players. "It is possible that there are individuals who are really strong in certain positions," he said. "However, if they are not willing to work as a team, others would be appointed in preference to them."

The unofficial list of nominees makes clear that, as in his first term, Ahmadinejad wants to surround himself with close supporters and that experience in relevant fields is not a major consideration. Heidar Moslehi, a cleric who appears to be slated to run the key Intelligence Ministry, has headed a religious institution that manages donated properties.

"What relation does a person who hasn't done a single day's intelligence work, and whose most important job was as head of the charity organization, have to the job of intelligence minister?" said Ahmad Tavakoli, a lawmaker who is critical of Ahmadinejad's governing style, the Sahamnews Web site reported. "On this list are people without even a day of executive experience."

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