Hardline Cabinet United by Nuclear Ambition
Ramita Navai in Tehran, The Times UK:
Iran's ultra-conservative President has announced a hardline Cabinet, signalling a tougher line in negotiations with the West and sounding the death knell for the reform movement in Iran. Despite promising a “government of moderation”, President Ahmadinejad appointed key posts to prominent religious conservatives and new faces from the ideological Right, many of whom are former military commanders.
Although hailing from different right-wing political factions, which analysts say could lead to political in-fighting, the Cabinet is united on believing that Iran must not bow to international pressure over its nuclear ambitions. READ MORE
Mr Ahmadinejad named the conservative MP Manouchehr Mottaki as Foreign Minister, an outspoken champion of Iran’s nuclear programme and a scathing critic of Western interference.
Mr Mottaki strongly backed the controversial move to resume uranium conversion last week — a move that resulted in the EU calling an emergency meeting of the UN’s nuclear watchdog and placed Iran on the brink of an international crisis.
“This is the one issue they all agree on and unlike the reformists, this new conservative Cabinet will not compromise over the nuclear issue,” Said Leylaz, a political analyst, said.
The new appointments came as Tehran warned the West to back off from what it sees as bullying over its nuclear programme, after President Bush said that he would not rule out a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Mr Ahmadinejad also replaced Hassan Rohani, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, with Ali Larijani, a conservative former head of state broadcasting. Mr Larijani has described giving up Iran’s right to uranium enrichment in exchange for EU incentives as like swapping “a pearl for a sweet”.
The nuclear issue is likely to dominate policy for the new 21-member Government, although dramatic changes in foreign policy are unlikely, as it is set directly by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader. Instead, analysts say that the Government will present a harder, inflexible image to the West.
Other appointments of prominent conservatives, renowned for their fundamentalist views, are Mostafa Pourmohammadi, a former Deputy Intelli- gence Minister who has been named Interior Minister, and Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei, who has been named Intelligence Minister.