Iran General NewsIran government dismisses top cleric's criticism

Iran government dismisses top cleric’s criticism

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AFP: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government has shrugged off unprecedented criticism from the head of the judiciary, telling the high-ranking cleric not to interfere, media reported on Sunday. by Hiedeh Farmani

TEHRAN, Aug 19, 2007 (AFP) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government has shrugged off unprecedented criticism from the head of the judiciary, telling the high-ranking cleric not to interfere, media reported on Sunday.

Judiciary head Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi warned in a speech last week that the government was needlessly changing top officials, in a rare intervention from a cleric who usually stays out of day-to-day politics.

“Ayatollah Shahroudi, as head of the judiciary, knows more than anyone about the correct separation of powers,” between Iranian institutions, Ahmadinejad’s top advisor Ali Akbar Javanfekr told the governmental Iran newspaper.

“It is wrong for these powers to interfere in each other’s affairs. It is expected that this is rectified and its repetition prevented,” he told the newspaper’s Saturday edition in remarks picked up by other media on Sunday.

“High ranking officials should take extra care with their choice of words so that some statements cannot be exploited by those who cannot bear the unity between our pillars of the system,” the daily added in an editorial.

Shahroudi on Wednesday complained that the country was being harmed by frequent changes of ministers and top managers, in remarks seen by the reformist press as a direct attack on the president’s style of government.

The ayatollah is one of the most respected clerics in Iran and is renowned for his depth of knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh).

Since Ahmadinejad came to power in August 2005, a host of mid- to high-ranking officials have been replaced in sensitive ministries, most notably foreign affairs and oil.

“It should not be done in a way that if we want to groom an eyebrow we end up by poking out the eye,” Shahroudi commented, using a traditional Persian proverb.

His comments also came in the same week that Ahmadinejad unexpectedly reshuffled his cabinet, replacing Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh as oil minister and Ali Reza Tahmasebi at industry.

Capping an unusually turbulent week in Iranian domestic politics, both Vaziri Hamaneh and Tahmasebi criticised the president’s policymaking after their departures.

Javanfekr however maintained it was the government’s right to dismiss officials whose performance was deemed unsatisfactory and could not ignore “offences” committed by managers.

Such open exchanges between government officials and heads of other power centres are highly unusual in Iranian, where political discourse is usually marked by the utmost discretion.

The Iranian press has also speculated that central bank governor Ebrahim Sheibani and Economy Minister Davoud Danesh Jaafari would be next to go after disagreeing with an unexpected decision to cut interest rates.

However First Vice President Parviz Davoudi denied the reports, and insisted that no more changes in the cabinet were planned.

The reshuffle came amid criticism of the government from across the political spectrum in Iran for fuelling inflation and ploughing extra revenues from high crude oil prices into high-spending infrastructure projects.

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