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A senior Iranian revolutionary guards commander targeted by international sanctions has taken over the presidency of Opec after he became Iran's oil minister on Wednesday.
Rostam Ghasemi, head of the Khatam al-Anbia military and industrial base, was one of four ministersnominated by president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to join his cabinet last week and approved by Iran's conservative-dominated parliament.
The clever and decisive vote of Iranian MPs for engineer Ghasemi to become the oil minister is a meaningful and crucial response to the attacks against the guards from the west's media empire," said Ramedan Sharif, the head of the revolutionary guards public relations' unit, in quotes carried by Iran's semi-official Fars news agency.
In a parliamentary debate before the vote, however, Ali Motahari, a prominent conservative MP who has previously threatened to impeach Ahmadinejad, spoke out against the involvement of the revolutionary guards in Iran's politics.
"The integration of the guard, as a military force, in political and economic power is not in the interests of the system," Motahari told the parliament. "In neighboring countries, military officials are distancing themselves from politics and power, while it's the opposite in Iran."
The appointment of Ghasemi as Iran's oil minister automatically makes him the head of Opec which has a crucial role in determining oil prices.
As its second-largest crude oil exporter, Iran took the presidency of Opec after 36 years last October and Ghasemi's position will give the revolutionary guards a unique opportunity to influence an international organisation.