'Khamenei to Ahmadinejad: Accept intel chief or quit'

Tensions intensify after ayatollah reportedly gives ultimatum to Iranian president to reinstate Heydar Moslehi or resign.

By OREN KESSLER
May 7, 2011 10:55
2 minute read.
Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei and Ahmadinejad

Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei and Ahmadinejad 311 (R). (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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A two-week row between Iran’s ruling cleric and president intensified this weekend, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei issued an ultimatum to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to either reinstate the country’s intelligence chief or resign, Iranian media reported.

Late last month, Khamenei vetoed Ahmadinejad’s decision to dismiss Heydar Moslehi as intelligence minister.

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According to the DPA news agency, the Iranian website Ayandeh quoted a presidential adviser as saying that in a meeting this week between Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, the ayatollah pushed the president to either accept Moslehi back into the government, or step down.

Ahmadinejad has not yet responded to the ultimatum, the official reportedly said.

Tensions between the two leaders grew when Ahmadinejad held an 11-day walkout, apparently in protest of Khamenei's decision to reinstate the minister, Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported.

Moslehi was absent from the first cabinet meeting held since the president ended his protest, and was reportedly asked to leave by Ahmadinejad during the second cabinet meeting.



The supreme leader firmly supported Ahmadinejad following his 2009 reelection, a vote that was overshadowed by allegations of election fraud.

Meanwhile, clerics close to Khamenei have launched a campaign to highlight his role in Iranian politics, saying that to disobey him is equal to apostasy, as he is “God’s representative on earth,” the Guardian reported. Although Khamenei is not constitutionally allowed to intervene in cabinet appointments, an unwritten law obligates officials to abide by all of the ruling cleric’s dictates.

Iran’s semi-official Mehr news agency reported Thursday that several members of parliament had revived efforts to summon the president for questioning over “the recent events.” The agency said 90 MPs had signed the petition, up from only 12 last week. Under Iranian law, at least 85 more signatures are required for a possible impeachment of the president.

On Wednesday, Iranian websites reported authorities had arrested a number of Ahmadinejad allies on suspicion of being “magicians” and invoking jinns, or evil spirits.

Among those detained were Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, as well as Abbas Ghaffari, an official described as “a man with special skills in metaphysics and connections with the unknown worlds,” according to the Ayandeh website.

Many conservative clerics have also criticized Mashaei, Ahmadinejad’s closest aide, for promoting an “Iranian school” of Islam they consider both religiously impure and dangerously nationalistic.

Ahmadinejad has thrown his support behind Mashaei, causing clergy circles to accuse the president of trying to undermine the Islamic character and principles of the country.

The jostling for influence comes less than a year before a parliamentary election that will likely be between fellow conservatives. Leading reformist candidates are unlikely to be allowed to stand if they are deemed too close to the opposition Green Movement, which the establishment considers part of a foreign- backed conspiracy to overthrow the Islamic system.

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