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Iran To Fight Enemy's 'Soft War,' Says Ministerial Nominee

Heydar Moslehi
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's proposed new intelligence minister has pledged to "confront the enemies' soft war" as he outlined his planned policies during a heated debate in parliament.

Iranian officials often accuse the United States and other Western countries of seeking to topple the Islamic republic through a "soft" or "velvet revolution" with the help of intellectuals and others inside the country.

They have portrayed the huge protests that erupted after the June presidential election as a foreign-backed bid to undermine Iran's clerical system of government.

Nominated Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi said he would bring a new approach to national security, as he addressed parliament ahead of a confidence vote on Ahmadinejad's new cabinet scheduled for September 2.

One planned strategy would be "to improve the intelligence capacity to confront the enemies' soft war," said Moslehi, a former official in the elite Revolutionary Guards of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He did not elaborate.

Parliament must approve Ahmadinejad's 21-member cabinet and some deputies have criticized the hard-line president for nominating several ministers without relevant experience in their fields, including Moslehi and others.

Parliament's verdict on the proposed ministers is seen as a test of Ahmadinejad's grip on power after his reelection for a second term in a vote which his moderate foes say was rigged, an accusation authorities deny.

Rights groups say thousands of people, including senior pro-reform politicians, journalists, and activists, have been detained since the election, accused of inciting unrest after the poll. Many are still in jail.

Jamshid Ansari, a deputy who criticized Moslehi's nomination, said the Intelligence Ministry should "not be affiliated to one branch of power, just implementing the president's instructions."

"Mr. Moslehi does not have a minimum of experience of intelligence work and therefore his presence in this complicated system would not be fruitful," Ansari told parliament.

Analysts believe parliament will eventually approve the cabinet. But a stormy process, less than three months after the election which plunged Iran into its deepest internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, could damage Ahmadinejad politically.