- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 14, 2005

TEHRAN — Iran’s new president named a Cabinet yesterday replete with hard-liners in key ministries, nominations seen as likely to ensure more confrontation with the West over the country’s nuclear program.

None of the 21 ministers in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s proposed Cabinet are known to back democratic reforms. They are seen as followers of Iran’s conservative supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters.

The proposed foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, has criticized Iran’s nuclear negotiations with the European Union and urged the country to adopt a tougher position and make no concessions.

Several other proposed ministers are either members of the Revolutionary Guard or have a history of cooperating with the Guard and security agencies, which take hard-line positions on Iran’s nuclear program.

If the new Cabinet is confirmed by parliament, it is expected to adopt more aggressive positions with the Europeans, who have been trying to persuade Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment program to avoid being referred to the U.N. Security Council for consideration of sanctions.

The United States and others contend that Iran has a secret plan to build nuclear bombs — a charge Tehran denies.

Iran already rejected a resolution last week from the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency urging it to stop converting uranium into gas. Two Iranian officials repeated that stance yesterday, but said Tehran was willing to talk with the Europeans about Iran’s still-suspended uranium-enrichment program.

Conversion of uranium to gas is a step before enrichment, which produces material usable for both energy-producing reactor fuel and atomic bombs.

A former hard-line deputy intelligence minister, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, was named interior minister. Mr. Ahmadinejad named as intelligence minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehei, a cleric whom reformist journalists regard as an unyielding opponent of press freedom.

The proposed Cabinet contained only one member of the outgoing government of former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who tried to moderate the Islamic social code and build bridges to the West. The centrist politician Mohammad Rahmati remained as transportation minister.

“All those who worked against Khatami’s reformist agenda have now been nominated to sit in the government,” the reformist writer Alireza Rajaei said. “Most of them are either former military commanders or people in close touch with security agencies.”

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