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Updated: September 5, 2009 00:14 IST

Iran approves first woman Minister

Atul Aneja
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Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi
Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi

For the first time since 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran will have a woman Cabinet Minister, as Parliament on Thursday approved 18 out of 21 nominees proposed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his new Cabinet.

Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, who will hold the Health portfolio, will be Iran's first woman Minister. She is a qualified gynaecologist from Tehran University, and has been a well-known health activist.

The Parliament also voiced its strong approval for Mr. Ahmadinejad's choice of Ahmad Vahidi as Defence Minister, with 227 out of a total of 286 law makers backing him for the post. Earlier Interpol distributed an arrest warrant for Mr. Vahidi over a 1994 attack on the Israeli-Argentine Mutual Association (AMIA), which killed 85 people.

Iran has strongly denied any involvement in the attack. Mr. Vahidi described the Parliament's approval for him as a "decisive slap to Israel."

Parliament also approved some of the other seemingly controversial nominees. The Intelligence Ministry has gone to Heydar Moslehi, a former representative of the Supreme Leader to the paramilitary Basij militia. Massoud Mirkazemi, who has close ties with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has been approved as the new Oil Minister. Parliament approved Mr. Ahmadinejad's trusted confidants, Manouchehr Mottaki as Foreign Minister, while Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, a senior figure with an IRGC background, easily passed muster for the post of Interior Minister.

Analysts point out that Parliament's backing for most of Mr. Ahamdinejad's nominees will strengthen the President's hand, who has been the focus of a sustained attack by opposition, which has disputed his election to the presidency, following the June 12 polls.

Following the strong approval by the law makers, Mr. Ahmadinejad is likely to fly to New York later this month to address the U.N. General Assembly session.

On Thursday, he brushed aside the possibility of fresh sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme. "No one can impose any sanctions on Iran any longer," the state-run IRNA news-agency quoted him as saying.

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