You are hereThe Guardian: Iran's president and supreme leader in rift over minister's reinstatement

The Guardian: Iran's president and supreme leader in rift over minister's reinstatement

MPs call for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be impeached after his refusal to back Khamenei's judgment

April 27, 2011- A rift is emerging between Iran's president and its supreme leader, prompting several members of the parliament to call for the impeachment of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has not been seen in public for days.

Ahmadinejad has refused to appear at the presidential palace since Friday in what is being seen as a reaction to Ayatollah Khamenei's reinstating of a minister he initially "asked to resign".

Under pressure from Ahmadinejad the intelligence minister, Heydar Moslehi, a close ally of the supreme leader, stepped down on 17 April but was reinstated when Khamenei asked him in a letter to stay.

The president has not publicly shown his support for that decision and on Wednesday he refused for the second time to chair a cabinet meeting in which Moslehi was present. Ahmadinejad also reportedly cancelled an official visit to the holy city of Qom prompting reactions among conservatives that "the president was sulking".

Under Iran's constitution, the president is in charge of appointing cabinet ministers who will hold the ministerial office after the approval of the parliament but an unwritten law requires all officials to abide by the supreme leader.

Iran's opposition has speculated that Khamenei is worried about the increasing power of Ahmadinejad and especially his chief-of-staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei.

Khamenei is believed to be particularly concerned about two key positions in the cabinet, the ministry of foreign affairs and the intelligence ministry, where he traditionally has influence. Ahmadinejad's administration is also accused of losing billions of dollars of Iran's oil revenues in recent years.

Last December, Ahmadinejad sacked Manouchehr Mottaki without consulting Khamenei while the former foreign minister was in middle of an official visit to Africa. Mottaki was replaced by Ali Akbar Salehi, the former head of the country's atomic energy agency.

After the dismissal of Mottaki, Ahmadinejad's assertion of control over Iran's foreign policy became clear. By attempting to dismiss Moslehi, some analysts believe that Ahmadinejad is entering a new phase of extending his control over key positions in the run-up to the March 2012 parliamentary election.

Ahmadinejad enjoyed the full support of the supreme leader when Khamenei backed him in the disputed presidential elections in 2009. Independent commentators believe that Khamenei has realised "his mistake" by supporting a president who is seeking to surpass him.

Since the first signs of split emerged, several members of the Iranian parliament have called on Ahmadinejad to publicly support Khamenei's decision over Moslehi, a request he has so far declined. Some prominent figures in the powerful revolutionary guards have also asked the president to comply with the supreme leader.