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Iran conservatives demand role in Cabinet's vetting

A bloc of hard-liners insists that fellow conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad obey the country's supreme leader or risk losing the group's confidence.

August 08, 2009|Borzou Daragahi

BEIRUT — A hard-line group demanded Friday that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad obey the country's supreme leader or risk losing the confidence of lawmakers from his own conservative political camp.

The Front Loyal to Imam and Leadership, a group of 14 conservative political parties and organizations led by prominent hard-liner Habibollah Asgaroladi, demanded that Ahmadinejad consult with his supporters before making appointments to his Cabinet, which he must submit for approval within 12 days.

"If, God forbid, you pursue an approach different from the one elucidated by the supreme leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] because of your refusal to consult the honest friends of the revolution, or you lose public faith out of obstinacy, we fear that the regime would suffer irreparable damage," said the statement, according to the semiofficial Iranian Students News Agency.

Iran is struggling through its worst political crisis since the 1979 Islamic Revolution after Ahmadinejad's disputed June 12 reelection; weeks of ongoing protests by supporters of opposition candidate Mir- Hossein Mousavi; and a harsh crackdown against dissidents and against reformers within the political establishment.

Protesters continue to defy security forces. Amateur video posted on the Internet showed hundreds of demonstrators chanting slogans as they marched through the western city of Kermanshah on Thursday on the religiously significant commemoration of the 40th day after the burial of Kianoush Asa, a chemistry graduate student and protester. A student news website said 10 mourners were arrested.

Meanwhile, police told the Mehr news agency that they had arrested 50 or so demonstrators among hundreds and possibly thousands who took to the streets of Tehran chanting "Death to the dictator!" in scattered protests Thursday night during a religious festival.

Authorities barred soccer fans from entering Tehran's Azadi Stadium on Friday to watch a game after protesters vowed to chant slogans and wear the opposition movement's signature green colors during the match.

Conservative rivals of Ahmadinejad have emerged as some of his harshest critics during the crisis, especially over his decision to appoint a controversial aide, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, as first in line to succeed him. Under pressure by conservatives, he backed down, but reappointed Mashaei as his chief of staff.

Hassan Ghafourifard, a member of parliament's presiding board, told Mehr on Friday that Ahmadinejad had refused to hold any consultation with lawmakers about the composition of his future Cabinet.

Asgaroladi's group urged Iranian lawmakers to approve Ahmadinejad's ministers only if they are "qualified to enter a competent, powerful and servant Cabinet that would be loyal to the supreme leader."

Conservatives have also begun criticizing the ongoing broadcast of stilted confessions of prominent politicians and others arrested in the crackdown and held for weeks in solitary confinement without access to lawyers or their families. Two reformist politicians as well as Newsweek correspondent Maziar Bahari and Iranian American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh said in televised confessions that they were part of a Western-backed plot to overthrow the Islamic Republic in a "velvet revolution."

Reformists immediately blasted the confessions as "show trials." Another conservative, Emad Afroogh, a social scientist and former member of parliament who once supported Ahmadinejad, also mocked the confessions, which are scheduled to resume today.

"We watched prisoners whose analyses had changed after serving time in jail and they had concluded only after incarceration that their views had been erroneous," he said in a letter published Thursday. "Iranians poured into the streets voluntarily. They got no money and no foreign media had urged them to rampage."

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daragahi@latimes.com

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