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Iran: New President Outlines His Program

Ahmadinejad (file photo) In a speech to the legislature on 21 August, newly installed Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad laid out his plans for the next four years, and legislators then began debating the men Ahmadinejad proposed as cabinet ministers --> /featuresarticle/2005/08/304595f0-a4f6-4575-9f05-16b24b18fb90.html one week earlier. Each prospective minister will have 30 minutes to address parliament, and the entire process might continue until 25 August. Legislators' comments in the last week indicate that three to six of the nominees will encounter resistance (see "Politicians Skeptical Of President's Obscure Cabinet Choices." --> /featuresarticle/2005/08/df1ac3f6-b3bf-489c-8db3-2855a321e26e.html ).

Ahmadinejad's speech was broadcast live by the Islamic Republic of Iran News Network. In his discussion of foreign affairs, the president adopted a resentful tone and expressed Third World and nationalistic sentiments. He complained that Iranian imports from unspecified other countries amount to millions of dollars, but those same countries do not import Iranian goods or buy Iranian oil.

"Those very countries, which should be thankful for our contribution to their economic success, now act as if we owe them something," Ahmadinejad said. "In political issues, they have a hostile approach toward us. They are not ready to recognize our legitimate rights. They go as far as to interfere in our domestic politics under different pretexts, including human rights and false accusations. They want to silence us on the important issues that are going on in the region and the world of Islam. They want us to follow their discipline in our foreign policy."

Ahmadinejad said Iran will not accept such "tyranny and injustice."

The Ahmadinejad government's foreign-policy program calls for cooperation with other Islamic countries, and lists as its priorities "relations with the Islamic world, the Persian Gulf region, the Caspian Sea region, Central Asia, the Pacific area, and Europe," Fars News Agency reported. It backs the Palestinian people. It opposes neocolonialism and efforts at "world domination," and it calls for greater cooperation with nonaligned countries.

Ahmadinejad's foreign policy calls for relations with all countries except Israel -- "forever" -- and the United States -- "as long as it is not prepared to observe the honor and the interests of our nation."

Ahmadinejad said his candidate as foreign minister, Manuchehr Mottaki, is the best choice because of his 20 years' experience as a diplomat and his two terms as a member of parliament.

An Islamist Social Program

Ahmadinejad said spirituality is on the government's agenda and warned that ethics could be degraded by liberalism. He called for the promotion of Islamic values and principles, and he said the promotion of the Koran and the teachings of Imam Ali (Nahj ol-Balagheh) will strengthen families.

His government program also emphasized the role of Islam in enhancing "national solidarity," and it discussed activities at mosques, religious boards, and the Basij, and also during religious holidays. State broadcast media is to emphasize Iranian and Islamic culture "with the purpose to cause subcultures to adapt themselves to public culture." There should be greater cooperation between seminaries and universities.

Ahmadinejad said prospective Minister of Islamic Culture and Guidance Mohammad Hussein Safar-Harandi is qualified because of his lengthy experience in media affairs, IRNA reported. Hojatoleslam Mustafa Purmohammadi is qualified to be interior minister, Ahmadinejad said, because of his education in Qom and his knowledge of Islamic sciences. Prospective Minister of Intelligence and Security Hojatoleslam Gholam-Hussein Mohseni-Ejei is qualified for the job because he is a specialist in international law and is familiar with the ministry's work.

The Debate Begins

Lawmakers began their debate after the president's presentation and his comments on the proposed cabinet ministers. Legislators' statements in the days after Ahmadinejad submitted his list indicate that it will not be smooth sailing for all of them.

Mohammad Reza Bahonar, the deputy speaker, predicted on 19 August that the majority of proposed ministers would win votes of confidence, IRNA reported. Speaking two days earlier, Kazem Jalali, rapporteur of the Foreign Policy and National Security Committee, said he believes the proposed ministers of defense and armed forces logistics (Mustafa Mohammad Najjar), of foreign affairs (Mottaki), and of intelligence and security (Mohseni-Ejei) will win votes of confidence easily, Fars News Agency reported on 17 August.

"Resalat" newspaper reported on 17 August that legislators are very critical of four of the prospective cabinet members, "Iran News" reported. The four are: Masud Mir-Kazemi as commerce minister, Mohammad Suleimani as communications and information technology minister, Ali-Reza Ali-Ahmadi as cooperatives minister, and Ali-Akbar Ashari as education and training minister. Opposition to these individuals reportedly is connected with their lack of public visibility in the past.

Malayer's Hassan Zamani said in the 17 August "Aftab-i Yazd" that Ahmadinejad could have done better and predicted that five or six of the candidates might not win approval.

A 16 August report in "Mardom Salari," which included interviews with several legislators, made a similar point. It said the majority of the individuals named by Ahmadinejad have no record of activity at such a high level, and the legislators predicted that just three or four of the proposed ministers will win a vote of confidence.

Some hard-line legislators saw Ahmadinejad's list of cabinet ministers one day before he formally submitted it, IRNA reported on 14 August. Elias Naderan, who serves on the parliamentary Energy Committee, said a number of his colleagues objected to the proposed petroleum minister, Ali Saidlu. Another member of the committee, Mohsen Yahyavi, argued that Saidlu has no experience in the oil sector. (See also "Iranian Oil Ministry Is Focus Of Anticorruption Bid.")

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