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Iran to fight enemy's "soft war," parliament told

By Reza Derakhshi and Fredrik Dahl
/ Source: Reuters

By Reza Derakhshi and Fredrik Dahl

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's proposed new intelligence minister pledged on Monday to "confront the enemies' soft war," but one conservative member of parliament said he lacked experience for the post.

Heydar Moslehi was one of several of Ahmadinejad's cabinet nominees to address the assembly in a bid to secure its support in voting scheduled for Wednesday -- a test of the president's grip on power after his disputed re-election.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, who will retain his job if parliament backs him, said Iran had successfully defended its "nuclear rights" against Western demands to halt such activity.

"Those who used to give us warnings on possible (military) strikes ... now they say it is not possible to attack Iran. Is this not a success?" Mottaki said. "Now they are begging for Iran's help to solve their problems in the world."

Ahmadinejad's nominees need parliament's approval and some deputies have criticized the hard-liner for naming several ministers without the necessary background, including Moslehi and the proposed education minister, Sousan Keshavarz.

The legislature is dominated by conservatives, but some of Ahmadinejad's supporters have abandoned him since the June election. His reformist foes say the poll was rigged, an accusation authorities deny.

Ahmadinejad has already signaled tougher foreign and nuclear policies in the next four years, after Iran accused its Western foes of inciting unrest that erupted after the vote.

"NO EXPERIENCE"

Germany said on Monday it would host high-level talks this week with the United States, China, France, Britain and Russia on Iran's nuclear program, which Iran says is purely peaceful.

The United States, Germany, France and Britain have threatened Iran with harsher U.N. sanctions over work that they suspect is aimed at making weapons.

Iranian officials often accuse the United States and other Western countries of seeking to overthrow clerical rule through a "soft" or "velvet" revolution with the help of intellectuals and others inside Iran, and have portrayed the huge opposition protests after the presidential election as part of this drive.

Moslehi, a former official in the elite Revolutionary Guards representing Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said he would "improve the intelligence capacity to confront the enemies' soft war." He did not elaborate.

Rights groups say thousands of people, including senior pro-reform politicians, have been detained since the election, accused of fomenting the unrest. Many are still in jail.

Lawmaker Jamshid Ansari said Moslehi "does not have a minimum of experience of intelligence work, and therefore his presence in this complicated system would not be fruitful."

But other MPs defended his candidacy, saying his background with the Guards made him a suitable choice.

Some have also questioned the nomination of Commerce Minister Massoud Mirkazemi as new oil minister, but MP Vali Esmaili said there was a "high possibility" he would be confirmed. Iran is the world's fifth-largest crude exporter.

Analysts believe parliament will eventually approve the cabinet. But a stormy process, less than three months after the election plunged Iran into its deepest internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution, could damage Ahmadinejad politically.