After five days of intense debate, Parliament in Iran has approved 18 of the 21 cabinet ministers proposed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The BBC reports two women were among the three rejected nominees.
The president now has three months to propose new candidates.
Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, 50, is to be minister of health.
She is reportedly a hard-line conservative who in the past has proposed segregated health care with women treating women and men treating men.
The two women rejected were Fatemeh Ajorlou, as welfare and social security minister, and Susan Keshavarz, as education minister.
The third nominee to be turned down was the president's choice for energy minister, Mohammad Aliabadi.
The president's choice for defence minister, Ahmad Vahidi, who is wanted by Argentina over a deadly 1994 bombing of a Jewish centre, won strong backing.
Speaker Ali Larijani said Mr Vahidi received the highest number of votes in favour of any nominee, with 227 MPs backing him out of 286.
Interpol has distributed Argentina's warrant for Mr Vahidi's arrest over the attack at the Israeli-Argentine Mutual Association 15 years ago, which killed 85 people.