Iranian president Ahmadinejad sacks foreign minister
TEHRAN: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed his long-serving foreign minister on Monday and named one of his own close allies, Iran's nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, as his interim replacement.
The sacking of Manouchehr Mottaki is an indication of a struggle between the president and parliament in which the assembly has accused Ahmadinejad of concentrating more power in his own hands and riding roughshod over the views of lawmakers.
There was no indication, however, that the switch signaled any shift in Iran's nuclear policy or the broad lines of its foreign policy. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the last word on nuclear policy and other matters of state.
"I appreciate your diligence and services as the foreign minister," state news agency IRNA quoted the hardline Ahmadinejad as saying in a letter to Mottaki.
Mottaki is viewed as an ally of conservative parliament speaker Ali Larijani, who lost to Ahmadinejad in the 2005 election and is now seen as the key rival of the president in his political battle with the assembly. Ahmadinejad has delayed signing into law legislation passed by parliament, and held up funds due to be invested in Tehran, all the while insisting it is he who has precedence over the assembly within Iran's multi-layered political system.
Larijani, a critic of Ahmadinejad's economic policies, has tacitly urged Khamenei to rein him in, to little visible effect.
Prominent lawmakers have warned that they may take legal action against the president, and even impeach him, for his alleged disregard of the constitution. Some MPs accuse him of spending petro-dollars without parliamentary approval.
The president also partly sidelined the traditionally more liberal Foreign Ministry by appointing several regional foreign policy advisers who appeared more influential than the minister.
Khabaronline, a website close to the government, said Mottaki had "harshly criticized the president for setting up a parallel diplomatic apparatus."
Ahmadinejad appointed Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization, as caretaker foreign minister, state television reported. IRNA said Salehi would also keep his nuclear post. -Reuters
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