Ahmadinejad pushes Cabinet, says no to liberalism

TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran’s hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad put his proposed Cabinet to parliament Sunday, lashing out at the West and liberalism and promising a government that will “promote virtue and prohibit vice.”
Signalling his shock election win had delivered a clean break from the previous reformist administration of Mohammad Khatami, Ahmadinejad pledged to fight off liberalism that he argues threatened Islamic values.

“The international community they go so far as to condemn us. What sort of balance is this? This is injustice and oppression, and our nation will not accept this in international affairs,” Ahmadinejad, who took office on August 3, told parliament.

It was a clear reference to threats against Iran in the wake of Tehran’s decision to resume sensitive nuclear work earlier this month. The clerical regime has refused to return to a full freeze of nuclear fuel work — the focus of fears the country is seeking atomic weapons.

Ahmadinejad also vowed a more assertive trade policy. “Currently we are importing from some countries billions of dollars whereas they are not buying our oil and they are also not buying our products,” he said in a speech one MP described as “more about ideals than strategies.”

“These countries should be thankful to us because we are helping their economies boom, but they are not thankful and are looking at us as if we were indebted to them,” the 49-year-old former commando told the conservative-controlled assembly.

The speech to the majlis, carried live on state television and radio, opened a debate that could last several days on the former Tehran mayor’s proposed 21-member Cabinet.

Although right-wingers dominate the assembly, the procedure may not be a mere formality. Of those nominated, only two have previously held ministerial posts while the others are mostly unknowns.

Ahmadinejad said four principles would guide the policy of his new government: “Expansion of justice, serving people, elevating the country financially and spiritually, and kindness to people.”

“Liberal thought justifies and recognises all abnormalities and deviations (and) isolates the values defined by religious training such as equality, forgiveness, selflessness, chastity and immaculacy,” he told the 290-seat majlis.

“Our nation does not and will not tolerate such a thing,” he said, vowing a “culture of spirituality” in the Islamic republic.

“We should expand a culture that promotes virtue and prohibits vice, and also favourable to Islamic traditions such as respect to parents, visiting relatives, generosity to orphans and philanthropy… and we should fortify the education, universities, mosques, seminaries and genuine cultural groups.”

Ahmadinejad has allocated political posts — such as the interior ministry, intelligence and culture — to fellow ultraconservatives, while technocrats have been appointed to head the oil and foreign ministries.

Since Ahmadinejad announced his team earlier this month, eyebrows have been raised over some nominees’ qualifications — including Ali Saidloo, nominated for the sensitive oil ministry, science portfolio nominee Mohammad-Mehdi Zahedi and health ministry nominee Kamran Baqeri-Lankarani.

“If the parliament behaves reasonably and logically, some nominees will not receive the vote of confidence. If the parliament behaves politically, all the ministers would be approved,” Mohammad Khoshchehreh, an MP from Tehran, told IRNA.

One MP, Hassan Sobhani, was quoted as saying by IRNA that “strategies to remove administrative corruption were missing” from Ahmadinejad’s programme, and cautioned that faced with globalisation, “we should not be passive and wait for the Islamic civilisation to appear.”

Another MP, Bijan Shahbazkhani, warned that government plans to give ordinary Iranians a share of the nation’s oil wealth appeared to contradict efforts to contain inflation.

But Iran’s all-powerful leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has given his backing to Ahmadinejad’s line-up, calling Friday for the majlis to “complete its legal duty” so the “the new administration is in place as soon as possible.”

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