Iran parliament dismisses minister in setback for Rouhani

DUBAI:Iran’s parliament voted to dismiss the minister of science on Wednesday, removing an official viewed with distrust by conservatives and dealing a blow to moderate President Hassan Rouhani’s liberalisation programme.
An impeachment motion passed by the assembly accused Reza Faraji-Dana, the Minister of Science, Research and Technology, of allowing students expelled from university following anti-government unrest in 2009 to return to campus. The vote, reported by official media, marks the first major ousting from office of a government minister since Rouhani’s landslide election victory in 2013.
Rouhani’s win had raised hopes among liberals in the Islamic Republic for an easing of curbs on political and social activity, but his administration has not made significant policy changes on political freedoms.
In a speech broadcast on state TV, Rouhani said he had wanted to be in parliament “to defend my scientist”, but he was in the city of Ardebil and missed the session. However, he said he would comply with parliament’s vote regardless of the decision in order to preserve the country’s unity. Out of 270 votes, 145 parliamentarians voted to oust Faraji-Dana, 110 voted to retain him and 15 abstained after six hours of debate, the official state news agency IRNA said. 
The conservative lawmakers were apparently irked by Dana’s support for teachers seen as pro-Western or those who were involved in opposition rallies following the disputed 2009 presidential election that gave Rouhani’s predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term in office. They also accused Rouhani of tolerating student publications that question Islamic teachings.
Dana’s ouster underscored the growing political rift between Rouhani and his hard-line opponents in parliament who accuse him of giving ground to pro-Western voices in the name of moderation.
Hard-liners are also opposed to an interim nuclear deal that Rouhani’s government signed with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany last year, saying he gave too many concessions in return for too little. After the interim deal last November, some of the U.S. and European Union sanctions imposed over Iran’s controversial nuclear program were lifted.

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