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Middle East
Iran endorses 'wanted' minister
President's controversial pick for defence portfolio gets backing from legislators.
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2009 09:05 GMT
Vahidi is wanted internationally in connection with the bombing of a Jewish centre in Argentina [AFP]

Iranian legislators have voted overwhelmingly to accept as defence minister a man who is wanted by Interpol in connection with the bombing of a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires.

Ahmad Vahidi's position was approved on Thursday by legislators voting on cabinet nominations put forward by  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president.

His selection of Vahidi provoked outrage from Argentina last month which said he was "deeply implicated" in the 1994 attack which left 85 people dead.

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

Argentina bombing

On July 18, 1994, a bombing at the Argentinian Jewish Mutual Association in Buenos Aires killed 87 people and injured more than 200.

Prosecutors on the case accused Iran-backed Hezbollah of carrying out the bombing and accused senior Iranian officials of planning the attack.

Iranian officials have strongly denied any involvement.

Interpol issued an arrest notice for four senior Iranian officials, including Ahmad Vahidi, Ahmadinejad's defence minister-designate.

Iran has dismissed complaints against Vahidi and has never acknowledged the existence of the Al-Quds Brigades, the force Vahidi was said to be commanding at the time of the attack.

While Vahidi's nomination to the cabinet was accepted, legislators rejected some of his other choices, including two female nominees for the education and welfare portfolios respectively.

But the parliament did endorse a third female candidate, Marziyeh Vahid Dastjerdi, a gynaecologist and obstetrician, for the position of health minister.

Dastjerdi will be the first female minister since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.

Overall, parliament rejected three of Ahmadinejad's choices - the two female candidates and his choice for energy minister - and approved 18 others, including Massoud Mirkazemi as oil minister.

Despite the rejection of three ministers, the cabinet can still start working and Ahmadinejad has scheduled its first meeting for Sunday, state radio said.

Source:
Agencies
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