AFP: An Iranian army general with a background in the Revolutionary Guards on Sunday replaced a top aide to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a key interior ministry post in charge of organising elections. TEHRAN, Aug 26, 2007 (AFP) – An Iranian army general with a background in the Revolutionary Guards on Sunday replaced a top aide to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a key interior ministry post in charge of organising elections.
Armed forces spokesman General Alireza Afshar took over the job of deputy interior minister for political affairs from Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi, one of the president’s closest advisers.
“The reason I am leaving this job is that I was too busy,” Samareh Hashemi said according to Iranian state television.
Samareh Hashemi, who has known Ahmadinejad since university, served as his top adviser while he was Tehran mayor and is still rarely seen far from his side on domestic and foreign trips.
He will remain in his other post as top adviser to the president.
The office of deputy interior minister is important because it is charged with organising elections in Iran, a position that gives a say in how the process is run.
The country’s next national election will be on March 14, 2008, for the current conservative-dominated parliament, followed by a presidential poll in summer 2009 when Ahmadinejad’s term ends.
Iran’s deputy interior minister for political affairs also has some control over all 30 provincial governors-general, and chairs a supervisory board which issues licences for political parties and NGOs.
“The most important task is to strengthen political dynamism in society so people participate in the election,” Afshar said on taking office, according to the ISNA news agency.
While praising Afshar, Interior Minister Mostafa Pour Mohammadi commented that “had it not been for Sarameh Hashemi’s pressure of work we would have preferred this switch did not take place on the threshold of elections.”
Like Ahmadinejad, Afshar has a background in Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards and served as spokesman for the force during the 1980-1988 war with Iraq, state media said.
Mohammad Baqer Zolghadr is the other deputy interior minister, in charge of security affairs. Previously he was a deputy head of the Revolutionary Guards.
The promotion of former Guards in the interior ministry comes amid expectations that US President George W. Bush will issue an executive order to blacklist the force as a terrorist group in order to block its assets.
The Revolutionary Guards are one of the key institutions of the Islamic republic, with an increasing influence in the economy, and many of Iran’s current top politicians have recorded significant careers in the force.
Pour Mohammadi, a mid-ranking cleric, is a former deputy minister of intelligence.