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The Guardian: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faces impeachment threat

Iranian president under increasing pressure from MPs after supporting foreign minister's controversial appointment of deputy

-by Saeed Kamali Dehghan 

June 21, 2011- Ministers in Iran moved a step closer towards impeaching the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, after a series of clashes with supporters of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Impeachment proceedings were launched against foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi for appointing a man close to Ahmadinejad's chief-of-staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, as his deputy.

Supporters of Khamenei, including the overwhelming majority of parliament, say Ahmadinejad is under the spell of Mashaei, who is accused of attempting to undermine clerical power and increase his own political influence.

A power struggle between Ahmadinejad and the establishment, especially the clerics, has come to light after the controversies surrounding Mashaei became public. Muhammad Sharif Malekzadeh, the deputy foreign minister in the middle of the row, was appointed last week but has already resigned. Despite that, Iranian MPs went ahead with their motion to impeach Salehi, signed by 33 deputies, which was officially read out in the parliament.

"The motion to impeach [Salehi] has not been halted ... It is up to the members of the parliament to withdraw their impeachment request," the parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, was quoted as saying by Iranian news agencies.

In a further setback for the president, who had gone to the parliament for the first time after weeks of exchanging verbal attacks with various lawmakers, especially Larijani, Ahmadinejad's nominee for the new post of minister of sport and youth was rejected.

Meanwhile, several MPs warned Ahmadinejad of his own possible impeachment if he insisted on supporting Mashaei and his allies, who are described as a "deviant current" within the inner circle of the president ,and are accused of everything from corruption to sorcery .