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September 4, 2009

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Iran won't bend to nuke talk deadlines

PRESIDENT Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed yesterday that Iran would not bend to Western deadlines for nuclear talks after his new government won broad backing from parliament - including a defense minister wanted by Argentina for a deadly 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center.
Lawmakers also gave approval to the nation's first woman government minister since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
"No one can impose sanctions against Iran anymore. We welcome sanctions. We can manage ourselves (despite sanctions). But we have given our package of proposals," Ahmadinejad told reporters yesterday as the parliament was voting for his proposed Cabinet.
The United States and some allies worry that Iran seeks to develop nuclear weapons, but Iran's leaders say they only seek peaceful reactors for electricity. US President Barack Obama and European allies have given Iran until the end of September to agree to talks on its nuclear program. Ahmadinejad also plans to make his annual trip to New York for the UN General Assembly later this month.
In the parliament vote, Ahmadinejad won approval for many key posts that included the foreign, interior and intelligence ministries.
The new defense minister, Ahmad Vahidi, received overwhelming support. Also receiving parliament backing was Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi as health minister, making her the Islamic Republic's first female Cabinet member since the toppling of the Western-backed shah.
Vahidi gained support earlier this week when lawmakers said they would not bow to foreign pressures to reject him. Vahidi is wanted over charges of involvement in the bombing of the Jewish center in Buenos Aires that left 85 people dead.
Vahidi is one of five prominent Iranians sought by Argentina in the bombing. He was the commander of a special unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guard known as the Quds Force at the time of the attack.
Among the 286 lawmakers attending the open session, Vahidi received 227 votes - the biggest show of support for any of the proposed ministers in a clear political snub against Argentina and other nations. Five parliament members abstained.
"Allahu Akbar" or "God is great," the lawmakers chanted as parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani announced the vote for Vahidi.
Later, Vahidi told reporters that "upgrading the country's defense capabilities will be my first priority as defense minister." In May, Iran test-fired an advanced version of its ballistic missile that's capable of reaching Israel and beyond.


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