Middle East

Iran's Rouhani unveils cabinet of technocrats

Iran's new President Hassan Rouhani sits next to the national flag on his first official day in office in Tehran on August 3, 2013. AFP PHOTO/ATTA KENARE

TEHRAN: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday revealed a cabinet lineup of experienced technocrats, aiming to deliver on his promise of saving the economy and engaging the world.

Rouhani presented the list after being sworn in before parliament as Iran's seventh president, even though officially he had two weeks before having to nominate his ministers.

The conservative-dominated parliament has 10 days to review the nominations, but media reports say MPs are keen to start voting within a week or less.

The political breadth of Rouhani's cabinet was seen as a testament of his priorities.

He has listed these as rescuing the ailing economy crumbling under harsh international sanctions over Tehran's nuclear ambitions, and engaging in constructive dialogue with the world.

Among the key nominees are veteran retired diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif, tapped for the foreign ministry, and ex-oil minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh for the same portfolio.

With a PhD in international law and policy from the University of Denver, Zarif was Iran's ambassador to the United Nations from 2002 to 2007.

He was also a member of the Islamic republic's nuclear negotiating team from 2003 to 2005, when Rouhani himself was chief nuclear negotiator.

Zarif's reported nomination is attracting attention with speculation rife in the media that Rouhani wants to transfer responsibility for nuclear negotiations with the so-called P5+1 group -- the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany -- to the foreign ministry.

Zanganeh, a technocrat who was oil minister for eight years under former president Mohammad Khatami, is highly regarded in Iran for developing good ties with its partners in the OPEC oil cartel and building up the energy sector.

Zanganeh is also seen as a reformist ally of ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

But along with Zarif, he is attracting some reserved criticism from hardliners in the parliament, according to media reports.

Rouhani on Sunday repeated his promise of undoing the damage done by his firebrand predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"We will initiate the path (of the government) with detente, creating mutual trust and constructive interaction. I say this frankly that Iran has never had been bent on war with the world."

His first staff appointment came on Sunday morning, the nomination of Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Mohammad Nahavandian as chief of staff.

Nahavandian holds a doctorate in economics from George Washington University and has a U.S. Green Card.

He is expected to play a leading role in coordinating and implementing the new president's economic policies.





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