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Most nominees OK’d for Iran Cabinet

Despite attacks by hard-liners, only 3 rejected

TEHRAN— Iran’s conservative-dominated Parliament rejected three of the new president’s 18 nominees for his Cabinet on Thursday but approved 15 others, including those heading portfolios key to implementing his agenda to reduce the Islamic Republic’s international isolation and improve its economy.

Hard-liners had attacked Hasan Rouhani’s nominees for having Western educations and for being close to the opposition. But after four days of debate, they only rejected three — Mohammad Ali Najafi as education minister, Jafar Milimonfared as science, research, and technology minister, and Masoud Soltanifar as sports and youth minister.

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Lawmakers accused both Najafi and Milimonfared of playing a role in the unrest that followed disputed 2009 elections. Soltanifar was called inexperienced. Parliament approved Mohammad Javad Zarif for the post of foreign minister. According to his resume, he did postgraduate studies at San Francisco State University and obtained a doctorate in international law and policy at the University of Denver.

Lawmakers also approved the proposed oil minister, Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, 61, who previously held that portfolio from 1997 to 2005. Oil revenue comprises up to 80 percent of Iran’s foreign income.

Hard-liners used the debates to launch their first major salvo against Rouhani’s agenda since his election in a landslide victory in June, won with the backing of centrists and reformists.

Rouhani took the oath of office on Aug. 4 and sent his proposed Cabinet list to the Parliament the same day.

Earlier on Thursday, the president in a speech asked lawmakers to vote for all his nominees as a ‘‘united and integrated system.’’

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Separately, Rouhani appointed his predecessor’s foreign minister as new head of the country’s nuclear agency, the state news agency reported. Ali Akbar Salehi will replace Fereidoun Abbasi as head of Iran’s nuclear agency, IRNA reported.

Salehi was foreign minister under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Before that, he was head of the nuclear agency for more than a year. He is seen as a technocrat with good relations with all political factions in Iran.

The new president has pledged to improve an economy ravaged by international sanctions through empowering technocrats and mending bridges with the rest of the world. Iran faces Western sanctions over its nuclear program, which the United States and its allies say has military dimensions. Iran denies the charge, saying its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes.

Rouhani’s victory — he won an outright majority in the first round of the vote, leaving all his rivals far behind — gives him a strong mandate. But conservatives still dominate Parliament.

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