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Middle east

MPs back choice of defence minister despite Interpol arrest warrant

Video by Kate WILLIAMS


Latest update : 2009-09-02

No Iranian MPs opposed Iran's defence minister-designate Ahmad Vahidi (pictured) ahead of a confidence vote on Wednesday despite demands from Argentina that he be arrested for the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish centre.

AFP - Iranian MPs on Tuesday strongly backed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's choice for defence minister, despite Argentine demands he be arrested for the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish centre.
Dressed in military uniform, Ahmad Vahidi faced no opposition from MPs on the third day of debate on the president's proposed new cabinet line-up ahead of a confidence vote on Wednesday.
Outlining his four-year plan to MPs, Vahidi promised to "build innovative defence products and expand regional and international cooperation with an active defence diplomacy."
He also promised to "boost the deterrent capabilities ... to change threats into opportunities in order to strengthen national security."
His candidacy was backed in particular by Gholam-Reza Karami, a prominent lawmaker and head of the assembly's defence committee.
Karami expressed "strong support (for Vahidi) and strong objection to the Zionist lobbies" against him. As he spoke other lawmakers chanted, "Death to Israel!"
Lawmaker Hadi Gavami, who had initially intended to oppose Vahid, later said in a note read by a member of the assembly's governing board that he will vote for the man.
Gavami said that was to prevent the "sinister and meddling position taken by the Zionist regime (Israel)."
The defence portfolio is important as Iran is currently isolated in the world, especially since the disputed re-election of Ahmadinejad, and over its controversial nuclear programme.
Tuesday's backing by MPs comes amid accusations by Argentina that Vahidi played a role in the Buenos Aires bombing that killed 85 people at a Jewish community centre in 1994.
In 2007, Interpol formally distributed an Argentine arrest warrant for Vahidi to its 187 member countries.
Meanwhile, the proposed new health minister, one of three females included in Ahmadinejad's incoming cabinet, demanded an increased role for women in national affairs.
"Women must have a greater role in the country's affairs," Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi told parliament.
If any of the three women gets the nod from lawmakers, it would mark the first time in the 30-year history of the Islamic republic that Iran has a woman minister.
Dastjerdi, outlining her four-year plan, said 55 percent of health ministry employees were women, and that there are 1.6 million female students in the country.
"Also, when there are women and men working together; miracles take place," said Dastjerdi, dressed in a black chador.
She promised to put in place an improved health plan with a focus on "health concerns of women."
Dastjerdi's candidacy was backed by former health minister and lawmaker Alireza Marandi.
"She has the credentials and has participated in making proposals on issues related to the health sector," he said in the chamber.
Hardline MP Fatemeh Ali told AFP that "Dastjerdi is predicted to get higher votes than men nominees after she presented her plans."
She also said the proposed interior, defence, intelligence and foreign ministers would be approved as "there is a positive feedback about them."
But the other two women are expected to face an uphill task in securing the mandate from the conservative MPs as they lack ministerial experience.
Parliament speaker Ali Larijani insisted that voting be based on whether or not a nominee has "necessary capabilities to resolve the country's issues."
"They must be familiar with different dimensions of the job ... and not work as if serving an internship," he said on state television.
The three-day debate will spilled over into Wednesday because several nominees still had to outline their plans, including those proposed to head the crucial oil and interior ministries.
Ahmadinejad, who is under fire from his own hardline camp over several political decisions he has taken since his disputed re-election, needs to secure more than 50 percent of votes for each nominee for that person to be confirmed.
Over the past two days, several conservative MPs have lashed out at his picks, saying they were inexperienced and "obedient" to him.

Date created : 2009-09-01