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Iran: Rouhani moves to finalize cabinet | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Iranian parliament members talk to each other during a general meeting in Tehran, Iran, Sunday Oct. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iranian parliament members talk to each other during a general meeting in Tehran, Iran, Sunday Oct. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iranian parliament members talk to each other during a general meeting in Tehran, Iran, Sunday Oct. 20, 2013. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iranian president Hassan Rouhani submitted a list of three candidates for ministerial posts on Sunday, to replace candidates rejected by the country’s conservative-dominated parliament.

The list surprisingly does not include the name of the moderate Jaafar Towfiqi, the current caretaker minister of Science, Research and Technology, who also oversees Iran’s universities.

Iranian media reported that Hassan Rouhani has named Reza Faraji Dana for Towfiqi’s post, Reza Salehi Amiri to fill the Sports and Youth portfolio and Ali Asghar Fani to head the Education Ministry.

The nominees, who will face a confirmation vote in Iran’s parliament next week, are not prominent members of any of Iran’s political factions, which may smooth their path to office.

Towfiqi was previously Iran’s science minister during the second term of reformist president Mohammad Khatami. He was appointed as caretaker minister earlier this year following the rejection of Rouhani’s first choice for Minister of Science by Iran’s parliament.

Towfiqi has recently made a number of calls to ease strict government supervision of higher education in Iran and promote a more open atmosphere on university campuses.

As well as suggesting that those excluded from education in recent years and who feel their rights have been infringed should take their cases to the Ministry of Science, he has opposed plans to separate male and female students at Iran’s universities.

Additionally, Towfiqi’s stance and statements during the disputed presidential elections of 2009 also angered the Iranian hardliners, as he strongly criticized the attacks against students by the security forces during the protests.

Rouhollah Hosseinian, a prominent hardline conservative MP, said recently that the parliament is “sensitive” regarding the “sedition movement,” a term used to refer to the mass protests and allegations of electoral fraud that followed the 2009 presidential election.

“As Towfiqi made a speech in support of the sedition movement, the parliament will surely react [negatively to his appointment],” he added.

Many conservative Iranian hardliners, including members of parliament, recently expressed opposition to the potential re-appointment of Towfiqi as minister of science, prompting speculation that Rouhani’s decision to nominate another candidate is an attempt to defuse tensions with conservatives ahead of another round of international negotiations on Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

According to the semi-official ISNA news agency, Iranian nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi said last week that discussions on accepting additional supervision of Iranian nuclear activities took place at talks in Geneva between Iran and the group of six world powers known as the P5+1.

Specifically, the Iranian signature of the Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was considered, which would allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to conduct surprise inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities.

Members of Iran’s parliament were quick to react to Araqchi’s statement, emphasizing that any decision regarding the implementation of the Additional Protocol should be approved by the parliament.

A senior Iranian lawmaker said on Sunday that the Iranian parliament will approve the Additional Protocol to NPT only if the western states remove all the sanctions against the country.

“Acceptance of the Additional Protocol was raised in the final stage of the nuclear negotiations [in Geneva] and we should see what advantages they will give to Iran in return for it,” Ahmad Bakhshayesh , a member of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission told Fars news agency.

Bakhshayesh said that Iran is ready to accept the Additional Protocol, but only certain preconditions are met.

“Accepting the Additional Protocol depends on the recognition of all the nuclear rights of the Iranian nation, including (uranium) enrichment,” another member of same committee, Mohammad Hassan Asafari, told Fars news agency on Wednesday.