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New Iranian intelligence chief faces vote of confidence

TEHRAN, Feb 17 (AFP) - The new head of Iran's scandal-tainted intelligence ministry was presented to parliament Wednesday for a vote of confidence, the official news agency IRNA reported.

Ali Yunesi was tapped to take over as head of the powerful ministry from Qorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi, who resigned this month following the revelation that "rogue" intelligence agents had been involved in the murders of several dissidents and writers last year.

President Mohammed Khatami presented the politically conservative cleric to parliament Wednesday and a vote is scheduled to take place next week, IRNA said.

Yunesi, 43, had been at the helm of a special committee of inquiry into the dissidents' murders and has wide experience in the Islamic regime. He has served as a public prosecutor in Tehran and as head of the military's judicial division.

In 1978, Yunesi was arrested and tortured by agents of the former shah, IRNA said, after having worked earlier with Palestinian and Lebanese guerrillas.

The intelligence ministry has been the focus of a political crisis here after it announced last month that a number of its agents had been arrested for involvement in the murders of several prominent dissidents and writers.

Conservatives in the regime have insisted that the killings were the work of foreign agitators, while reformists have accused Islamic fundamentalists -- backed by conservatives -- of being behind the murders.

On Tuesday a former commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards accused Israel of involvement.

"The Israeli secret services were behind the recent murders and political assassinations in Iran as well as an attack in November against a group of American tourists," General Mohsen Rezai said.

"They want to tarnish the image of the regime and show that our reformist president Mohammad Khatami is incapable of controlling the situation," he told reporters.


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