Iran parliament approves majority of Rouhani Cabinet picks ( photo:AP)
Iranian lawmakers on Sunday approved 16 Cabinet members nominated by recently re-elected President Hassan Rouhani, including the first defense minister unaffiliated with the elite, hard-line Revolutionary Guard in 25 years.
Parliament speaker Ali Larijani said lawmakers approved 16 of 17 proposed ministers, among them Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif with 236 votes, and Oil Minister Began Zingano with 230 out of 288 members of parliament who voted. The chamber has 290 seats.
The most votes went to Gen. Amir Hatami for Defense Minister, with 261 votes. It marked first time Iran has appointed a defense minister who has no ties to the hard-line Revolutionary Guard in nearly 25 years.
Hatami, 51, said told Parliament that improving the country's missile program is on his agenda.
"We will apply special effort for improving ballistic missile power," he said.
Rouhani urged Hatami to improve ties between the Iranian army and the Revolutionary Guard while using modern technology for improving the country's arsenal.
The defense minister is tasked with producing weapons for both the army and the Guard, which is in charge of launching Iran's ballistic missiles.
The Guard, a paramilitary force that answers solely to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, regularly has tense encounters with the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf. It has deployed into Iraq as part of the fight against the Islamic State group and into Syria to support embattled President Bashar Assad. It also holds vast economic interests in Iran.
Rouhani's nominee for energy minister, Habibolalh Bitaraf, was not approved. During a review, members of parliament criticized him for lacking a plan to fight the longstanding drought and water crisis in the country, where many towns and cities suffer from shortage.
Iran's Cabinet has 18 ministerial posts but Rouhani did not propose a candidate for ministry of science, which is in charge of higher education.
Under the law, the president can manage ministries which have no leader for up to three months.