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Iran MPs stay away from Ahmadinejad party: paper

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Most Iranian lawmakers stayed away from a party hosted by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Etemad, a reformist daily, cited unidentified members of parliament as saying their absence signaled disappointment at the hardline president’s proposed cabinet following the disputed June election.

Ahmadinejad’s media adviser was not immediately available for comment.

Ahmadinejad submitted the cabinet list to parliament last week but he may face a battle after some deputies suggested they were likely to reject several nominees.

“From the 290 lawmakers invited to a party hosted by the president on Sunday night, only 20 attended. Lawmakers say with Ahmadinejad’s proposed cabinet, there is no reason to hold meetings and talks,” Etemad reported.

Parliament’s conservative vice-speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar has suggested up to five members of Ahmadinejad’s 21-strong cabinet risked being voted down by parliament. The assembly is due to start voting on the nominees on August 30.

Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election on June 12 led to the worst unrest since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The legislature is dominated by conservatives but some of Ahmadinejad’s backers have abandoned him since the election, even though he enjoys the backing of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s highest authority.

The moderate opposition says the election was rigged to secure Ahmadinejad’s re-election, a charge rejected by the authorities, and regards the next government as illegitimate.

Members of parliament had urged Ahmadinejad not to nominate inexperienced ministers and to consult with MPs before naming his cabinet, but many say their request was ignored.

Ahmadinejad, criticized by parliament during his first-term for sudden government reshuffles, says he sought wide advice on his cabinet line-up, which includes many new ministers.

“Prominent MPS said they did not attend the party because during the few weeks when they insisted on meeting the president and discuss the nominees, they had received a cold reaction (by Ahmadinejad),” Etemad said, without naming the lawmakers.

The nominees include current Commerce Minister Massoud Mirkazemi as oil minister, a key position as crude sales account for most state revenue. Mirkazemi is regarded as an Ahmadinejad ally but has little known oil industry experience.

In 2005, the president failed to get his first three choices for oil minister appointed because of parliament’s opposition.

Ahmadinejad’s proposed cabinet also includes three women as ministers for health, social welfare and education -- the Islamic Republic’s first female ministers.

Analysts expect parliament to approve a cabinet eventually, but a stormy nomination process could hurt Ahmadinejad.

Writing by Zahra Hosseinian; editing by Robert Woodward