TEHRAN (Reuters) -Iran”s hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suffered a blow on Wednesday when his nominee for oil minister withdrew his candidacy in the face of criticism from lawmakers about his lack of experience and his wealth.
Sadeq Mahsouli”s departure is a domestic embarrassment for Ahmadinejad, who has caused a storm abroad by calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map."
The new president has staked his political reputation on bringing his close allies from the conservative religious camp into the Islamic Republic”s most prestigious jobs.
"As the Oil Ministry is a very important ministry … I believe the nominee should get a very high vote. Therefore, I withdraw," Mahsouli said in a letter to Ahmadinejad, read out by Parliament Speaker Gholamali Haddadadel.
Mahsouli, a former comrade of the president in the hardline Revolutionary Guard, walked out of the chamber before the letter was read out.
His political experience was confined to a stint as a provincial governor and deputy defense minister, little suiting him to steer energy policy in the world”s fourth biggest oil producer.
But several lawmakers were quoted by the Iranian media as saying lack of experience would be the least of his problems if he wanted the job in OPEC”s second biggest exporter.
Lawmaker Ali Asgari told the IRNA news agency that parliament would want to grill the nominee on how he had amassed a fortune to become "billionaire general."
He said parliament”s "Article 90" commission, which investigates violations of the constitution, had been looking into a fraud case involving Mahsouli before he was nominated.
The official IRNA news agency said the case involved the handling $6.5 million in an oil deal with Tajikistan.
Mahsouli was the second nominee presented to parliament by Ahmadinejad. His first, Ali Saeedlou, was rejected in August.
Ahmadinejad praised Mahsouli, saying he had always been in the front line of protests in the 1979 Islamic revolution.
"The oil ministry needs a revolutionary manager to revive it," he said.
Lawmakers are due to vote on the cabinet nominees for education, welfare and co-operatives later in the session.