Iran MPs warn Ahmadinejad

TEHRAN: Iranian MPs warned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday about the make-up of his new cabinet, the latest sign of the acute political turmoil gripping the nation since his disputed re-election.

An aide to Ahmadinejad's main defeated rival, Mir Hossein Mousavi, also reportedly said 69 people were killed in the violence that erupted after his June victory, more than double the toll reported by Iranian officials.

Ahmadinejad, whose return to power set off the most serious crisis in the history of the Islamic republic, is due to submit his new cabinet next week after being sworn in for a second four-year term on August 5.

"Your colleagues ... must be practically committed to the constitution and leadership, have revolutionary spirit ... adequate experience and expertise," said a letter to Ahmadinejad from 202 MPs which was read out in parliament.

The lawmakers said Ahmadinejad's ministers must meet these conditions if he wanted their "maximum cooperation and effort during the vote of confidence."

Ahmadinejad has already come under fire from within his own hardline camp over a number of controversial political decisions, with the aftermath of the vote exposing rifts within the ruling elite.

Conservatives were furious after he appointed a controversial aide as his first deputy and took his time carrying out supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's order that he be sacked.

Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie eventually stepped down as first vice president but conservatives were further irked when Ahmadinejad sacked the intelligence minister following a "quarrel" over Rahim Mashaie.

Since then hardliners have repeatedly warned Ahmadinejad to obey Khamenei, who pointedly refused to allow the re-elected president to kiss his hand at a ceremony to confirm him in office.

Ahmadinejad, whose new four-year term is expected to see a continuing confrontational tone with the West, has vowed to make "considerable changes" to his government, including appointing younger people.

He has also pledged to work to improve the economy, stamping out corruption and combating inflation running at more than 20 percent -- a problem his critics say was caused by his own expansionist policies.

One leading conservative lawmaker, Gholam Reza Mesbahi Moghaddam, complained that Ahmadinejad was refusing to consult MPs about possible cabinet members.

"If he did so, it would certainly have a positive impact (in the confidence vote)," he was quoted by the Mehr news agency as saying.

Ahmadinejad, 52, was criticised during his first tenure for frequently reshuffling the cabinet, sacking 10 ministers and two central bank chiefs and for keeping on ministers who lacked experience.

The hardliner is unlikely to see any let-up in the opposition campaign over what they say was his fraudulent re-election and the subsequent deadly crackdown on protesters.

"A list of 69 dead and about 220 detained after the election was submitted to a special parliamentary committee," Mousvai aide Mousida Alireza Beheshti was quoted as saying by the reformist Sarmayeh newspaper.

Iranian officials have said about 30 people were killed, and Tehran's deputy police chief Ahmad Reza Radan said he had "not heard about 69 people being killed in recent incidents."

Mousavi's camp also criticised members of the Guardians Council, the electoral body that upheld Ahmadinejad's election, saying in a statement on his website that the turmoil was provoked by their support for the incumbent despite the fraud claims.

Judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi said 4,000 people had been initially arrested in the crackdown and that 3,700 had been released soon after.

Iran has put on trial 110 protesters, including top reformists, a French woman lecturer and local employees of the French and the British embassies for participating in the unrest.

Iran's envoy to Paris said on Tuesday that Frenchwoman Clotilde Reiss could stay in the French embassy in Tehran during the trial.

Meanwhile, the French presidency said embassy staffer Nazak Afshar, on trial in Iran on charges related to the post-election protests, has left the Tehran prison where she was being held.

President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke to the French-Iranian woman after she was released from the prison where Reiss is still held, a statement in Paris said.