Iran MPs debate president's proposed oil minister

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TEHRAN, Nov 14 (Reuters) President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged Iran's parliament today to approve Gholamhossein Nozari as the new oil minister in OPEC's second largest crude producer.

Ahmadinejad nominated Nozari, who had been caretaker, after sacking Kazem Vaziri-Hamaneh, a step analysts saw as part of a bid by the president to expand control over a ministry that brings in most of Iran's revenues.

Parliament, which must approve ministerial appointments, rejected three of the president's choices for minister after he came to power in 2005 before finally backing Vaziri-Hamaneh.

Lawmakers said other candidates lacked oil industry experience.

Prior to yesterday's debate, lawmakers suggested they would consider Nozari's appointment positively.

Industry experts say Nozari, head of state-owned National Iranian Oil Company, is an experienced manager who has worked in the industry for years.

''(Nozari) spent most of his life involved in oil-related matters ... He has a great knowledge about the oil industry,'' Ahmadinejad told lawmakers.

As well as Nozari, the president has nominated Aliakbar Mehrabian to head the Industries and Mines Ministry. Mehrabian, who has also been caretaker minister, is an ally of Ahmadinejad, analysts say.

''I believe that these two ministers can be very successful and their views are compatible with parliament's view,'' the president said.

''Both of them will get a vote of confidence,'' moderate lawmaker Reza Talainik told the official daily, Iran.

A conservative lawmaker also said parliament was expected to back both candidates.

Vaziri-Hamaneh was removed from the oil ministry of the world's fourth largest crude producer after he differed with the president over management changes, analysts say.

Changes at the oil and industries ministries, as well as other steps such as replacing the central bank governor, are part of an effort by Ahmadinejad to tighten his grip on power before the March parliamentary election, analysts say.

Iran's state-controlled oil industry is expected to earn about 70 billion dollars from exports in the Iranian year to March.

Ahmadinejad came to power pledging to spread out Iran's oil wealth more evenly and weed out corruption in the oil industry.

One analyst said the appointment in October of a new oil vice-minister, Ali Kordan, seen as a presidential ally, suggested Ahmadinejad was strengthening his influence.

Vice-ministers do not need parliament's approval.

The president is not the most powerful figure in Iran's system of clerical rule, which gives the final say in all major policy matters to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Analysts said that, even if Nozari is approved, it will not mean the ministry and oil policy is fully in his hands, although it will increase his influence.

REUTERS SV RAI1353

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