Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lashed out at critics within his own hard-line camp on Friday, denying any rift with Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who he said was like a father.
"Some in recent days have portrayed the relationship between the leader and the administration as in doubt, they tried to imply distance and rift," he said.
In a speech which was aired on state television, Ahmadinejad went on to say, "What they do not understand is that the relationship between us and the supreme leader goes beyond politics and administration. It is based on kindness, on ideology, it is like that of a father and son."
The attempts by "ill-wishers" will not yield results, he said, adding, "this path with be shut in the face of devils."
Hard-liners have repeatedly warned Ahmadinejad that his legitimacy will be in doubt if he does not follow the supreme leader, who stands at the top of Iran's clerical leadership and has the final word on all state issues.
Ahmadinejad has feuded with fellow conservatives in the past, particularly because some in his camp believe he gives top posts to close associates rather than spreading out power among the camp's factions. The fight over vice presidential candidate Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, who happens to be related to Ahmadinejad, could point to an attempt by hard-liners to dictate the makeup of Ahmadinejad's new government, due to be announced in early August. Ahmadinejad eventually backed down on Mashai's appointment.
In a sermon at Teheran's main Friday prayers service, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, a senior ultra-conservative cleric, said that Ahmadinejad must work with parliament on the formation of the next parliament, a veiled demand he take the views of hard-liners there into account.
"Before naming individuals for ministries, the government and parliament must coordinate," Jannati said. He sharply criticized Ahmadinejad's firing this week of his intelligence minister, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi, apparently in part because of Ejehi's opposition to Mashai.
"I am saying this in a friendly manner ... the appointments and dismissals indeed caused an outcry from the people," Jannati said. "The sudden dismissal of a veteran ... and competent minister is not correct. It is not possible to defend this sort of activities."