AFP: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sacked his intelligence minister on Sunday, a day after he caved in to pressure from hardliners and forced his controversial first vice president to step down.
By Jay Deshmukh
TEHRAN (AFP) — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sacked his intelligence minister on Sunday, a day after he caved in to pressure from hardliners and forced his controversial first vice president to step down.
No official reason was given for the sacking of Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie, which comes just a few weeks before Ahmadinejad, re-elected for another four year term in a disputed vote last month, is due to finalise his new cabinet line-up.
Various local news agencies had reported that four ministers had been sacked but Ahmadinejad's office denied this, saying only Ejeie had been given his marching orders.
Those earlier reported also sacked are Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Mohammad-Hossein Saffar-Harandi, Labour and Social Affairs Minister Mohammad Jahromi and Health Minister Kamran Baqeri Lankarani.
Ejeie was sacked "following a verbal quarrel between the intelligence minister and the president in Wednesday's cabinet meeting over the appointment of (Esfandiar Rahim) Mashaie," the Mehr news agency quoted an informed source as saying.
Rahim Mashaie, who last year said Iran was a "friend of the Israeli people," stepped down from post as first vice president on Saturday after his appointment by Ahmadinejad a week ago stirred controversy and angered hardliners.
The fresh political turmoil comes as Ahmadinejad was still smarting from being ordered by Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to dismiss Rahim Mashaie, whom he had defended as a "trusted, devoted and pious" man.
With the latest sacking, Ahmadinejad has now dismissed 11 of the 21 cabinet ministers he appointed when he began his first four-year term in 2005.
His second term begins officially when he is sworn in on August 5, lawmaker Hamid Reza Haji-Babai told Mehr on Sunday. He has two weeks after that to finalise his new line-up.
Lawmaker Ali Motahari urged Ahmadinejad to "control his nerves."
"It looks as if he intentionally brings tension to the country. If the removal of the minister is because of this (objections to Rahim Mashaie's appointment) it is an ugly act because then it becomes a personal matter and has nothing to do with the country's interests."
Another MP, Ahmad Tavakoli, said that running the country was becoming "extremely difficult because of such behaviour (of Ahmadinejad), which is the poorest response to the confidence of 24.5 million voters who voted for him."
The president meanwhile on Sunday came in for a fresh lashing by hardliners, who said he had defied Khamenei by taking a week to obey the supreme leader's order to get rid of Rahim Mashaie.
The conservative Justice Seeking Students Movement urged parliament to question Ahmadinejad on "why he was late in obeying the leader's order and accepted (Rahim Mashaie's) resignation instead of sacking him."
Ahmadinejad was re-elected president last month but opposition leaders claim the vote was rigged and say they will refuse to recognise his new government.
In the immediate aftermath of the June 12 vote, hundreds of thousands of protestors poured onto Tehran streets, opposing Ahmadinejad's victory.
Official reports say at least 20 people were killed and scores wounded, while hundreds of demonstrators, political activists and journalists have been arrested in the crackdown by security forces.
Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi Sunday laid down a fresh challenge to Ahmadinejad by seeking permission from the interior ministry to hold a ceremony to mourn those killed in the protests, the ISNA news agency said.
The organisers, it added, planned to hold the ceremony on Thursday in central Tehran's Grand Mosalla, an open prayer venue where religious ceremonies are regularly held.
The authorities have banned such gatherings since the violence that followed the election and have placed tight restrictions on foreign media.
Despite the ban, defiant protestors have managed to stage further demonstrations but on a much smaller scale.
The opposition said the proposed ceremony on Thursday would be held in silence.