Iran Parliament approves 15 out of 18 of Rohani's Cabinet nominees

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran's Parliament on Thursday approved all of President Hassan Rohani'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.

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

Mr Rohani's nominee for education minister, Mr 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 Mr Rohani's nominee to head the Ministry of Sport, were also rejected.

But Parliament approved Mr Rohani's choice of foreign minister, Mr Mohammad Javad Zarif, a United States-educated former United Nations ambassador who has been at the centre of several rounds of secret negotiations to try to overcome decades of estrangement between Washington and Teheran.

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

Parliament also approved Mr 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 programme have halved Tehrran's oil exports since 2011, and its ageing oilfields need crucial maintenance.