Tehran tinkers with its cabinet

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The Independent Online
TEHRAN (Reuter) - President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani presented a new cabinet to Iran's Majlis (parliament) yesterday with seven changes, including the interior and defence ministers. He left the key finance, oil and foreign portfolios intact.

Mr Rafsanjani, who was sworn in on Wednesday for a second four-year term, named his 23-man team in an open session of the assembly.

The changes were more limited than the Majlis' conservative majority had demanded. Their Resalat newspaper recently said they wanted 12 ministers changed, including the Oil Minister, Gholamreza Agazedehand, and the Economy and Finance Minister, Mohsen Nourbakhsh.

Mr Rafsanjani, elected with 63 per cent of the vote in June, said last week he would follow a non-adventurous foreign policy to secure the calm needed for Iran's economic reform and progress in his second term.

He retained the Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Velayati, a cabinet member since 1981, who played a key role in negotiations leading to an informal ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon's Iranian-backed Hizbollah guerrillas last week.

Mr Rafsanjani named the Deputy Foreign Minister, Ali Mohammad Besharati, as Interior Minister.

Mohammad Forouzandeh, Deputy Chief of Staff of the armed forces for logistics, research and industry, was named Minister of Defence and Armed Forces Logistics.

Iran has taken delivery of its second Russian-made submarine, the Iranian navy commander, Admiral Ali Shamkhani, was reported as saying yesterday. Iran, the only Gulf state operating submarines, ordered three Kilo-class vessels from Moscow in a deal worth more than pounds 400m.