DUBAI - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has moved his chief of staff, seen as a potential successor and a target of criticism from hardline conservatives, to another job, according to the president's official website on Saturday.
Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie has provoked the ire of Ahmadinejad's conservative rivals, who accuse him of trying to undermine Iran's theocratic system. Ahmadinejad has defended his closest aide throughout the attacks.In a statement on Saturday, Ahmadinejad thanked Mashaie for his service, appointing him to a position in the Non-Aligned Movement, the 120-member bloc of countries whose rotating chair is held by Iran.
"I consider knowing and working with you to be a divine gift and great honor," Ahmadinejad wrote in the statement addressed to Mashaie.
Ahmadinejad, who has faced criticism from conservative rivals in parliament over his economic performance, is finishing his last year in office and by law cannot run again in presidential elections due in June 2013. Some analysts, and Ahmadinejad's rivals, believe he has been grooming Mashaie to succeed him.