TEHRAN: Government supporters and critics urged Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to compromise over an unprecedented standoff which has seen him fail to fill the key post of oil minister after three attempts.
Parliament's overwhelming rejection on Wednesday of Ahmadinejad's third oil minister nominee left oil policy in Opec's No. 2 producer adrift and compounded criticism of the president's criteria for selecting new officials.
Parliament Speaker Gholamali Haddadadel said the Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog, may have to rule on how to proceed since the stipulated three-month deadline to fill cabinet posts had expired.
But Ahmadinejad, whose uncompromising style has sparked concern at home and abroad, gave no sign that he would back down and re-appointed caretaker Kazem Vaziri-Hamaneh to run the ministry while he prepared to put forward a fourth choice.
Echoing lawmakers, who complain the three nominees lacked experience to run a ministry which controls 80 percent of export revenues and half of government income, the hardline Jomhuri-ye Eslami paper said Ahmadinejad must change his approach.
"The president has no choice but to reconsider his criteria," it said in a editorial. "The president should consider qualifications such as expertise, commitment, and management experience. He should avoid wasting time."
Analysts say control of the Oil Ministry is a top priority for Ahmadinejad whose campaign platform vowed to confront "corrupt mafias" within the ministry and to re-direct Iran's oil wealth towards the poor.
Oil executives said the appointment saga was having severe consequences at a time when Iran is struggling to match its 4.1m barrels a day Opec quota and badly needs investment to offset the declining recovery rates of its ageing fields. "New projects are almost paralysed," said a local businessman .