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Rouhani runs into obstacles

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By The Washington Post
Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013, 9:45 p.m.

TEHRAN — Hassan Rouhani's presidency in Iran is involved in its first hurdle, with members of the country's conservative-dominated parliament questioning whether some top cabinet nominees have supported Iran's foes.

Public hearings that began this week have turned bitterly contentious, with hard-line lawmakers singling out for particular criticism Rouhani's picks for oil minister and foreign minister.

Some observers have dismissed the challenge as little more than political theatrics from hard-liners who feel marginalized since Rouhani, a moderate cleric and former nuclear negotiator, won Iran's June 14 presidential election. Most of Rouhani's nominees are expected to be confirmed.

The opposition has turned hostile, with some lawmakers suggesting that Rouhani's choices reflect a greater sympathy for opponents of the previous Iranian government than he showed during his election campaign.

“Are the Rouhani before and after election different people?” Attaollah Hakimi, an ultra-conservative lawmaker, railed in a televised session on Monday. “Why do you want to revive the sedition movement?” He was referring to the 2009 protests that followed the re-election of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The intensity of the hearings points to the difficulty that Rouhani may face in bridging the divide between conservatives, with whom he has long worked as a member of the country's Supreme National Security Council, and reformists who overwhelmingly supported his candidacy.

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