Ahmadinejad sparked controversy in the conservative-dominated parliament when he named Sousan Keshvaraz, Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi and Fatemeh Ajorlou as his ministers respectively of education, health and welfare, and social security in his 21-member cabinet line-up.

Rahbar said the clerics' faction, whose view has yet to be officially declared, would seek the opinion of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's supreme leader, on the issue.

Candidates defended

Seyed Mohammad Marandi, a professor at Tehran University, told Al Jazeera that the womens' nominations were positive and had the support of many Iranians.

"In general, I think its a very positive sign that we have three women who have been picked to go into the cabinet," he said.

"Women have the capability to execute different social activities, including as ministers, and in my opinion if women are wise and learned, they can become judges, and even sources of emulation"

Hossein Mousavi Tabrizi,
reformist scholar in Qom

"There are many questions that have been raised by people as to whether many of those chosen for the cabinet have the qualifications or the experience necessary to run a ministry.

"But I think in general, a lot of people think the idea that we are now having large numbers of women in government is a positive."

Some religious leaders have also backed Ahmadeinjead's decision. 

The reformist daily Aftab-e Yazd reported Hossein Mousavi Tabrizi, the heads of a reformist group of scholars in Qom, as saying: "Women have the capability to execute different social activities, including as ministers and in my opinion if women are wise and learned, they can become judges, and even sources of emulation."

Ahmadeinejad's nomination of three women to the cabinet is a first in the 30-year history of the Islamic republic, although in 1997 Mohammad Khatami, the then reformist president, appointed two women among his vice-presidents.

The president's proposed cabinet, which boasts 11 new names including the three women, will face a vote of confidence on August 30.

International concern

While the West has welcomed Ahmadinejad's decision to include three women among his nominations, another of his choices has proved controversial.

Argentina complained on Friday over his nomination of Ahmad Vahidi, a man wanted by Interpol in connection with a bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association Buenos Aires in 1994, which left 85 people dead.

A warrant for Vahidi's arrest was issued by the international police organisation in November 2007.

He is said to have been head of the al-Quds Brigades, believed to be a covert operation branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guards.

But Iran has never acknowledged the existence of the group.

Aide suspended

Meanwhile, Iran's audit court dealt the president another blow, banning Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, Ahmadinejad's chief of staff, from public office for two months

The court ruled Mashaie had breached administrative protocol while working as a vice-president in charge of Iran's tourism and cultural heritage organisation.

Mashaie confirmed the ruling but has objected to it.

Ahmadinejad had named Mashaie as his vice-president soon after his disputed re-election in June, but backed down in the face of opposition from officials who accused Mashaie of saying Iran was a friend of the Israeli people.