Iran's parliament today accepted the nomination of Education Minister Mohammed Ali Rajai for prime minister, but bitterly criticized President Abol Hassan Bani-Sadr for his wording of the nomination letter.
Rajai is supported by the conservative Islamic Republican Party, which controls parliament. Deputies agreed to vote on his nomination Monday, and he seems certain to be approved.
Rajai's nomination is an important victory for the party, which has been involved in a power struggle with Bani-Sadr for months. Today angry deputies accused the president of showing disrespect for parliament by suggesting in his letter that he had been forced to accept Rajai as a candidate.
The president's original nominee for the prime minister's post -- Deputy Interior Minister Mostafa Mir-Salim -- met with opposition in parliament for being too "moderate," and last month Bani-Sadr withdrew Mir-Salim's name. Parliament then set up a three-man committee to examine the credentials of possible candidates, and the committee recommended Rajai.
Approval of a prime minister could remove the last major obstacle to parliamentary debate on the 52 American hostages, who have been held more than nine months.
Rajai is a hard-line advocate of the policies of the Islamic Republican Party, although he is not a member. In the past, the party has called for spy trials for the hostages.
Meanwhile, an Iranian diplomat was quoted today in an Lebanese magazine as saying that Iran has set a new condition for the hostages' release, namely that the United States promise not to interfere in the affairs of any Islamic nation.