TEHRAN (Reuters) -Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reckons he has three more months to nominate a fourth candidate for oil minister, but Iran”s powerful constitutional watchdog is pressing for much faster action.
Industry managers and parliamentarians say the debacle over finding an oil minister is hurting Iran”s economy, which is the world”s fourth biggest crude producer and derives 80 percent of its export earnings from oil and gas.
"The government”s reading is that a new three-month period has been established and there is no problem about the Oil Ministry being run by a caretaker," Gholamhossein Elham, head of Ahmadinejad”s office, told state television.
But addressing the same news programme late on Saturday, Guardian Council Spokesman Abbasali Kadkhodai said the constitutional experts had not been consulted by the government for a legal ruling on the time allowed.
"Of course, my personal opinion is that the time foreseen for the introduction of ministers in this article of the institution — that is to say three months — is non-renewable," he said.
"The president must nominate a new oil minister as soon as possible," he said.
Infighting over the appointment of an oil minister has piled domestic embarrassment on a president who has already incurred international condemnation by calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map."
Since August, Ahmadinejad has failed to get three nominees for oil minister past parliamentarians who are angry he is not consulting them about the most prestigious cabinet job.
Ahmadinejad had three months to appoint his cabinet ministers. This time is now up and the country has been cast into uncharted waters constitutionally.
Such political gray areas are meant to be clarified by the Guardian Council, a 12-man body of senior lawyers and clerics.
Parliament”s energy commission says it has a list of 10 highly qualified experts who would be suitable for oil minister.
But Ahmadinejad has insisted on selecting ideologically close allies from the conservative religious camp as his ministerial nominees.
He made oil a cornerstone of his presidential campaign in June, vowing to distribute oil wealth more fairly, favor domestic over foreign investors and rid the oil industry of the "mafias" he says run it.