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Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (left) has previously spoken of his admiration for Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (right), but their relationship has cooled in recent weeks. Vahid Salemi/AP

Iran's Ayatollah warns Ahmadinejad he will intervene 'when necessary'

Tensions between the President and Ayatollah hit a turbulent patch, after the latter restores a sacked minister to cabinet.

IRAN’S SUPREME LEADER warned today he will intervene in the government’s affairs any time he deemed necessary, in an apparent rebuke to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for challenging his all-encompassing authority.

The most recent confrontation between Ahmadinejad and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, came last week after the former sacked his intelligence minister – only for the latter to quickly reinstate him, in a significant slap to the president.

Ahmadinejad, who has said in the past that Khamenei is like a father to him, has enjoyed strong support from the supreme leader, especially in the tumultuous period after his disputed re-election in 2009. At times, though, he has defied the country’s most powerful figure.

Some have accused the president and his allies of trying to amass more power and challenge Khamenei’s ultimate authority.

“I won’t allow, as long as I’m alive, an iota of deviation of this massive movement of the nation,” Khamenei said in a speech broadcast on state TV Saturday, adding:

In principle, I have no intention to intervene in government affairs … unless I feel an expediency is being ignored as it was the case recently.

Khamenei, who was addressing hundreds of Iranian citizens in his residence in Tehran, said he was right and he would stand by his words.

“With the help of God… I firmly stand by our right stance,” he said.

Intelligence minister Heidar Moslehi resigned last week after apparent disputes with Ahmadinejad, and the president publicly accepted his resignation, but Khamenei ordered him to remain in the Cabinet.

In a sign of mounting tensions, Ahmadinejad has reportedly refused to give in to the order and has not invited Moslehi to the latest Cabinet meeting.

The dispute has also pointed to a potential weakness in the heart of Ahmadinejad’s government, as its base of support shrinks among parliament members and others.

A statement signed by 216 members of the parliament — more than two-thirds of the 290-seat chamber — last Wednesday warned Ahmadinejad  that he cannot disobey Khamenei, who has the last word in all state affairs.

Hard-liners consider Khamenei to stand above the law and answerable only to God.


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