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Iran parliament approves big Rouhani cabinet nominees, rejects three

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran's parliament on Thursday approved all President Hassan Rouhani's big-name nominees for a cabinet of technocrats, which will have the task of implementing his plans to patch up relations with the world and ease international sanctions.

The parliament debated each of the 18 nominees over the course of four days, rejecting three minor candidates.

Rouhani's nominee for education minister, Mohammad Ali Najafi was turned down after coming under attack by conservative members of parliament for having ties to opposition leaders held under house arrest.

The proposed minister of science and Rouhani's nominee to head the ministry of sport were also rejected.

But parliament approved Rouhani's choice of foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, a U.S.-educated former U.N. ambassador who has been at the center of several rounds of secret negotiations to try to overcome decades of estrangement between Washington and Tehran.

Rouhani, who took office on August 3, has promised to repair Iran's image abroad after eight years of confrontation under his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Parliament also approved Bijan Zanganeh, a former oil minister under the reformist president Mohammad Khatami, to return to that post where he will be charged with the task of increasing Iran's oil production and exports.

Western sanctions imposed over Iran's disputed nuclear program have halved Tehran's oil exports since 2011, and its ageing oilfields need crucial maintenance.

(Reporting by Jon Hemming; editing by Andrew Roche)

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