Iran gets 1st woman minister as MPs vote for new cabinet
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Last Updated: Friday, September 04, 2009, 00:51
  
Tehran: Iran's parliament strongly backed on Thursday a cabinet proposed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that includes the Islamic republic's first woman minister and a man wanted for bombing a Jewish community centre in Argentina.

The conservative-dominated assembly approved 18 of 21 nominees, propelling Ahmadinejad into his second term at a time when the Islamic republic is battling its worst crisis since the hardliner's re-election in June.

The candidates who failed to garner the required majority of votes were the two other women proposed and the would-be energy minister.

In a move highlighting Iran's often maverick status in the world, nearly 80 percent of lawmakers approved Ahmad Vahidi -- wanted by Argentina for a 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires -- as defence minister.

Following the vote, Vahidi said his selection, which was by a far greater margin than any other, was a "decisive slap to Israel," an arch-enemy of the country.

The first woman to join a cabinet in the Islamic republic will be Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, at the health ministry.

A gynaecologist and two-time former MP, Dastjerdi, 50, was approved despite never having held an executive job in government or even run a hospital.

The other two women, Sousan Keshvaraz and Fatemeh Ajorlou, fell short of the required number of votes to take over at education and at welfare and social security.

But oil ministry nominee Masoud Mirkazemi, who is set to head the crucial portfolio of OPEC's second largest exporter, barely squeaked by after being harshly criticised by a powerful conservative MP.

The voting took place after five days of heated debate saw some key nominees strongly opposed by MPs, yet approved in the end.

The confidence motion follows Ahmadinejad's June re-election and subsequent protests that have divided the nation's ruling elites and powerful clerical groups and shaken the pillars of the regime.

Rivals claimed the outcome of the vote was fraudulent, triggering massive street protests and violence in Tehran which left some 30 people killed. Opposition groups say 72 people died.

On Thursday, MPs stood in queues and deposited votes in separate ballot boxes for each of the 21 nominees, a process that took only minutes.

Ahead of the vote, the embattled president appealed to parliament to approve his team, saying this would deliver a "punch" to Iran's enemies.

Hailing the "free and open" debate, he said this proved that "real democracy exists in Iran."


First Published: Friday, September 04, 2009, 00:51


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