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Most of Rouhani’s Cabinet approved

AFP-JIJI

Iran’s parliament approved most of President Hasan Rouhani’s Cabinet picks Thursday, allowing the government to start work, said Ali Larijani, the legislature’s speaker.

But the proposed ministers of education and of science, research and technology, Mohammad Ali Najafi and Jafar Milimonfared — both considered close to reformists — and Masoud Soltanifar, at sports and youth, were rejected.

Among the key nominations approved by the conservative-dominated parliament were Mohammad Javad Zarif as foreign minister and Bijan Namdar Zanganeh for the oil portfolio.

Zarif, who holds a U.S. doctorate in international law, served as the Islamic republic’s ambassador to the United Nations between 2002 and 2007. He also played a leading role in nuclear negotiations between Iran and world powers in 2003-2005 at a time when Rouhani led his country’s delegation.

Zanganeh, who is highly respected in the energy industry and on the international scene, served as oil minister between 1997 and 2005 under reformist President Mohammad Khatami. But he faced heavy criticism during four days of parliamentary debate on the newly elected Rouhani’s nominations, for both Khatami’s ties to reformists and alleged corruption in oil contracts.

Ali Akbar Salehi, the foreign minister in the government of Rouhani’s predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was named to head the Atomic Energy Organization, the state news agency IRNA reported. Salehi, who holds a doctorate in nuclear science from MIT, already headed the organization between 2009 and 2010 before taking up the post of foreign minister.