Iran ready to hold talks on nuclear issue “without preconditions”; Ahmadinejad appoints 3 women ministers in his 21-member cabinet; Tehran Governor announces compensation for victims of post-election violence; Merkel warns of tougher energy sanctions
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  • Iran’s envoy to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh stated that Tehran was ready to hold talks with the West on its nuclear energy programme “without preconditions.” US President Obama has given Iran until September to take up the six-power offer of talks on trade benefits if it freezes its uranium enrichment programme or face harsher sanctions. Prospects of a solution have been hampered by the political turmoil regarding Ahmadinejad’s re-election victory in June1.

    President Ahmadinejad meanwhile appointed 14 new ministers, including three women members, in his 21-member cabinet. These include former parliamentarians Marzieh Vahid-Dastjerdi as Minister of Health, Fatemeh Ajorlou as Social Welfare Minister, and Susan Keshavarz as minister of education. Former commerce minister Massoud Mir-Kazemi will now be country’s oil minister2.

    Reports noted that President Ahmadinejad might face a difficult battle to win parliamentary approval for his choice of some cabinet ministers after some deputies signaled that they were likely to reject several nominees. Parliament speaker Ali Larijani on his part stated that “those nominated by the president for government posts must have sufficient expertise and experience, otherwise a great deal of the country’s energy would be wasted.” Vice speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar stated that up to five members of the 21-strong cabinet might be voted down by parliament3.

    Tehran Governor Hossein Tala announced that the government was willing to compensate those individuals who sustained losses and injuries during the post-election unrest. Tala reiterated that the announcement followed an order by the Supreme Leader Khamenei. He however stated that compensations will only be offered to those who did not participate in the violence4.

    In other developments, German Chancellor Angela Merkel threatened energy sanctions against Iran if it failed to step up cooperation with the international community on its nuclear programme. She noted that the six powers attempting to convince Iran to abandon its nuclear weapon ambitions - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — would gather in September to discuss how to deal with the situation. Merkel also dismissed the complaints of some German businesses that they were bearing an inappropriate share of the burden as a result of the current economic sanctions against Iran5.