Ahmadinejad braces for clash over oil minister

TEHRAN (AFP) — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will bid Wednesday to push his nomination for oil minister through parliament, hoping the chamber will back away from vetoing his candidate for a second time.
Lawmakers speculated on Tuesday that Ahmadinejad could even withdraw the nomination of controversial unknown Seyed Sadegh Mahsooli to stave off another possible embarrassment, although this was denied by the presidential office.

However it was clear there was a groundswell of resentment among many MPs who accused Mahsooli of having no more experience than Ahmadinejad’s previous nomination for the post — whose candidacy the lawmakers torpedoed in August.

Mahsooli, who would head up OPEC’s number two producer, is “incompetent and undeserving” seethed one MP at the open session of the parliament.

“Not giving the vote of confidence to an incompetent and undeserving minister does not mean toppling the Islamic regime,” said Emad Afrough, a member of the conservative majority that dominates parliament.

“How can (such) a person… implement the justice the president wants,” he said, drawing a roar of approval from the assembled MPs.

“Mr Mahsooli is not fit for the oil minister or to even to be a member of the cabinet,’ said another lawmaker, Gholamreza Mesbahi Moghadam. The parliament refused to give their vote of confidence on August 24 to Ahmadinejad’s first candidate for oil minister, Ali Saidloo — despite the president’s obvious support — along with candidates for three other portfolios.

The lawmakers were concerned that Saidloo was an unknown with no experience, a charge that could also be directed at Mahsooli.

A former member of the Revolutionary Guards, the 46-year-old Mahsooli has been a governor in the northwestern city of Orumieh and deputy defense minister in planning. He has no background in the oil sector.

His past in the Revolutionary Guards, to which Ahmadinejad used to belong, has stirred discontent among a large number of MPs.

Some have even openly questioned whether one has to be either a member of the ideological army or Tehran municipality to enter the cabinet. Ahmadinejad was Tehran mayor before he took the presidential office.

“The deputies are circulating a petition to ask the president to withdraw his candidate,” a parliamentary official told AFP on the condition of anonymity.

The petition is said to have already gathered some 30 signatures out of 290 MP’s.

The head of the parliamentary energy commission, Kamal Daneshyar, told AFP that a withdrawal “is what certain deputies want”. He did not comment on the expected outcome of Wednesday’s vote.

“There has been a hostile atmosphere since the four candidates were proposed as nobody knows them. The atmosphere has improved a lot, but it is very possible that certain nominees do not get the vote of confidence,” he said.

Ahmadinejad has also proposed Mahmoud Farshidi for the Education, Parviz Kazemi for Welfare and Mohammad Nazemi Ardekani for the Cooperatives.

But it is the oil that is in the spotlight at a time when the country is enjoying welcome budget windfalls from the record high oil price. Gas and oil make up some 80 percent of export revenues in Iran.

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