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Ahmadinejad critic elected as parliament speaker

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Latest update : 2008-05-28

A conservative heavyweight and critic of President Ahmadinejad, Ali Larijani was elected speaker of the Iranian parliament. In the wake of the IAEA's damning report on Iran, he warned cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog could be revised.

Iran's parliament on Wednesday elected as its speaker former top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, a conservative heavyweight and critic of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
   
In his first speech to the 287-member assembly, Larijani made clear his intention to be a powerful speaker, warning that parliament could use its powers to make Iran revise its cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog.
   
One of the top conservative figures in Iran, Larijani has held posts including top nuclear negotiator, state broadcasting chief and culture minister as well as unsuccessfully standing for president against Ahmadinejad in 2005.
   
Larijani won 232 votes out of a total of 263 cast in parliament, Iranian news agencies reported.
   
In his address to parliament, Larijani expressed regret that in its latest report on the Iranian nuclear drive, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had "spoken in an ambiguous way."
   
"This was used by the media, as you have seen, in the last days. This attitude of the agency is regrettable," he said in the speech broadcast live on state radio.
   
"Parliament will not allow that such deceptions are made and if they continue along this path, the new parliament will intervene in the case and set a new line for cooperation with the IAEA."
   
The speaker of parliament is a powerful position in Iran and was a post held by pragmatic cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani before he became president for two terms from 1989-1997.
   
The fact that Larijani chose to make a major statement on the nuclear crisis signals his determination to be a powerful speaker who wants his parliament to have a decisive influence on all areas of policy.
   
Larijani, who won a seat in parliament as MP for the holy city of Qom in the March general election, was elected without any contest after being chosen by the dominant conservative faction as their candidate.
   
Conservatives chose Larijani rather than previous speaker Gholam Ali Hadad Adel for reasons that have yet to be publicly explained. But it is likely his past experience and distance from Ahmadinejad proved attractive.
   
He typifies an increasingly prominent group in Iranian politics who remain rigidly loyal to the principles of the 1979 Islamic revolution but are distinctly lukewarm over the presidency of the ultra-conservative Ahmadinejad.
   
The divisions between the two were laid bare in October when Larijani resigned his post as top nuclear negotiator amid speculation that he was ready to take a slightly more pragmatic line in the standoff with the West.
   
Ahmadinejad gave Larijani's election a less than effusive reception, saying "it is the parliament's decision and we welcome any decision taken by the parliament", state broadcasting reported.
   
Larijani also indicated his parliament would be closely supervising the work of Ahmadinejad's government, which has been criticised by reformists and conservatives alike for controversial economic policies.
   
He noted that Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said parliament should be the "guide of the action of the government and that the government has no right to suppress its laws.
   
In the case of a dispute, a group chosen by parliament and the government should mediate to find a solution, he added.
   
Ahmadinejad has been blamed for Iran's inflation rates of almost 25 percent by embarking on a massive programme of building local infrastructure promised on his trademark provincial tours.
   
His controversial economic policies have split Iranian conservatives, with more moderate figures like Tehran mayor Mohammed Baqer Qalibaf and Larijani asserting that throwing money at the ecomomy will not solve Iran's problems.
   
The intense political maoeuvering comes as Ahmadinejad prepares for a reelection battle in summer 2009.
   
He is considered certain to stand but it remains unclear who his conservative rivals could be, with both Larijani and Hadad Adel touted as potential candidates.

Date created : 2008-05-28

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