Iran General NewsAhmadinejad seen as increasingly vulnerable since re-election

Ahmadinejad seen as increasingly vulnerable since re-election

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ImageNew York Times: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran dismissed his intelligence minister on Sunday and his culture minister resigned, the latest fallout of a bitter dispute among conservatives that has exposed Mr. Ahmadinejad’s vulnerability in the aftermath of last month’s disputed election.

The New York Times

By ROBERT F. WORTH and NAZILA FATHI
Published: July 26, 2009

ImageDUBAI, United Arab Emirates — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran dismissed his intelligence minister on Sunday and his culture minister resigned, the latest fallout of a bitter dispute among conservatives that has exposed Mr. Ahmadinejad’s vulnerability in the aftermath of last month’s disputed election.

The intelligence minister, Gholam-Hussein Mohseni-Ejei, is one of several who walked out of a cabinet meeting last week to protest Mr. Ahmadinejad’s promotion of a controversial deputy, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei.

That dismissal seemed largely symbolic, with only a week left before Mr. Ahmadinejad is inaugurated for a second term and must submit a new cabinet to the Parliament. Analysts say he is trying to show political confidence after the June 12 election, which opposition supporters claim was rigged in his favor. But his conservative rivals appear to smell blood and have pressed him hard over the promotion of Mr. Mashaei.

Mr. Ahmadinejad could face trouble in the coming days, because dismissing ministers, beyond a certain point, triggers a parliamentary vote of confidence on the cabinet. The deputy speaker of Parliament said Sunday that any cabinet meetings before the end of the president’s term would be illegal, state media reported.

The culture minister, Mohmammad-Hossein Safar-Harandi — whom Mr. Ahmadinejad had threatened to dismiss earlier in the day — said in a letter to the president that he had resigned, the Fars news agency reported. Mr. Saffar-Harandi, a former hard-line journalist, said he would not be at work on Monday.

Conservatives were infuriated that Mr. Ahmadinejad ignored an order from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to drop Mr. Mashaei, who angered conservatives last year with comments deemed friendly to Israel. Mr. Mashaei finally withdrew on Friday, but the president renamed him chief of staff, further antagonizing hard-liners.

Mr. Ahmadinejad had won support from government pensioners prior to the election by significantly increasing their payments. Those payments have since been reduced, according to the Fararu Web site, a development that could further endanger the president politically.

Opposition Web sites released the names on Sunday of three more protesters who were killed in the post-election unrest. One of them, Ashkan Sohrabi, a 20-year-old university student, was shot in the neck by a sniper on a roof and died minutes later, Web sites reported. His family said they recovered his body with difficulty and were barred — like other families of those killed — from holding a public funeral.

Another protester, Amir Javadi-Langaroodi, 24, was shot and wounded in protests on July 24, taken to hospital, and then to Evin Prison, where his father was later told to pick up his body, according to an account posted on reformist Web sites.

The third protester, Amir Javadi-Far, a student activist, was arrested on July 9, his family said, and died in prison. His family was allowed to pick up his body Sunday, Web sites reported.

The deaths of protesters — including Neda Aggha-Soltan, whose videotaped death from a gunshot wound was seen across the globe — have become a rallying point for the opposition. The government has said only 20 were killed, but at least 5 more deaths have become public in the past two weeks, and many opposition supporters claim the death toll is at least 100.

A scheduled mourning ceremony Sunday for Mohsen Ruholamini, another young demonstrator who died in prison — apparently after being beaten — was abruptly canceled. His family has links to Iran’s political elite, and the event had been widely expected to draw large numbers of opposition supporters.

His father, Abdolhussein Ruholamini, said he canceled the event out of concern about possible violence, but pledged to investigate his son’s death, Iranian Web sites and news agencies reported.

More than 100 opposition supporters showed up outside the mosque where the mourning ceremony was to take place, but the police quickly dispersed them, witnesses said. The main opposition leaders, Mir Hussein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, have sought official permission to hold a public mourning ceremony for those killed in the post-election violence, Iran’s Press TV reported. The ceremony would be held Thursday in the Grand Mosalla in central Tehran, the leaders said.

“Participants are required to pay their respects in silence,” read the letter, according to the Tabnak Web site.

Robert F. Worth reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Nazila Fathi reported from Toronto.

 

A version of this article appeared in print on July 27, 2009, on page A4 of the New York edition.

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