Iran General NewsIran government aide sacked in row over fake Oxford...

Iran government aide sacked in row over fake Oxford degree

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ImageAFP: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sunday he had sacked an aide who was banned from parliament for seeking to bribe MPs to vote against impeaching a minister who lied about having an Oxford degree.

ImageTEHRAN (AFP) — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sunday he had sacked an aide who was banned from parliament for seeking to bribe MPs to vote against impeaching a minister who lied about having an Oxford degree.

Ahmadinejad was quoted by the official news agency IRNA as saying he had fired the aide, referring to the whole incident as a "mistake."

"We confronted the wrongdoer firmly and this person was sacked yesterday (Saturday)," he said of government parliamentary representative Mohammad Abbasi.

Earlier parliament speaker Ali Larijani said in a speech to the house carried live on state radio that Abbasi had been banned from the legislature.

Last week Abbasi offered MPs cheques for 50 million rials (5,215 dollars) to help mosques in their districts.

The MPs were unaware that a second sheet they were to sign along with the receipt was a pledge not to vote to censure Interior Minister Ali Kordan.

Parliament will move on Tuesday to impeach Kordan for "dishonesty" after he confessed to holding a fake Oxford University degree — an admission which has caused major embarrassment to Ahmadinejad's government.

Kordan, who only took office in August, has been under pressure to resign since the prestigious British university denied awarding him a qualification through a representative, as he had claimed.

Larijani denounced what he called Abbasi's "deception" and urged Ahmadinejad's government to deal with the issue and remove "all ambiguities."

"Nobody has the right to play with parliament's honour like this," he said.

On Wednesday a conservative Tehran MP reportedly slapped Abbasi in the face in the corridors of parliament over cash handouts and obtaining signatures.

Several MPs have complained that provincial representatives to the house came under pressure and were given promises to make them abandon their intention to impeach Kordan, press reports said.

"The 50-million-rial cheques are part of the interior ministry's campaign against the impeachment motion," MP Ruhollah Jani Abbaspour was quoted by Kargozaran newspaper as saying.

Kordan replaced Ahmadinejad critic Mostafa Pour Mohammadi in one of the many cabinet reshuffles. Ahmadinejad's administration is increasingly under fire over its policies, especially on the economy.

The president, whose four-year term ends in 2009, has supported Kordan throughout the Oxford degree controversy.

Ahmadinejad's aide in parliamentary affairs, Mohammad Reza Rahimi, has also infuriated MPs by defending Abbasi and accusing the lawmakers of lying.

The president on Sunday also dismissed the bid to impeach Kordan, describing the interior minister as a "victim."

"I will not take part in the session to impeach the interior minister because this is not an impeachment of his performance," IRNA quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

"We believe that this (the controversy over the degree) is not a critical issue for the country and its discussion has caused a lot of fuss and only puts a barrier in the way of government," he added.

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