Last Updated: Thu Apr 28, 2011 01:12 am (KSA) 22:12 pm (GMT)

Ahmadinejad and Khamenei rift appears to widen in Iran

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, right, kissed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran. (File Photo)
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, right, kissed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran. (File Photo)

Iran’s president was missing from a cabinet meeting on Wednesday for the second consecutive time adding to speculation that the rift with the country’s supreme leader was widening on Wednesday, agencies reported.

The rift is over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s decision to dismiss Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi last week, a decision that was revoked by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Mr. Moslehi was present on Tuesday at a meeting of the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, the body that regulates educational and cultural issues, and which he chairs, Agence-France Press reported.

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s absence in that meeting was particularly noted, as he is known for never missing any opportunity to appear in the media and delivery fiery speeches, AFP said.

No reason was given for his absence by the state’s media.

Earlier on Saturday, in a speech that aired on state TV, Mr. Khamenei said he would intervene in government’s affairs “whenever necessary”—a rebuke to the president for challenging his all-encompassing authority.

The power struggle between the two leaders could be indicative of a serious political crisis in the making—especially ahead of legislative elections scheduled for March 2012. The presidential election will take place in 2013.

Analysts told The Associated Press that Mr. Ahmadinejad is looking to control the intelligence ministry in a bid to influence the next parliament as well as to determine the next president.

However, Mr. Khamenei is also seen as intent on helping shape a new political team, free of Ahmadinejad loyalists, to lead the next government.

The analysts added that in the absence of meaningful political parties, unforeseen political factions and groups have emerged prior to the elections, and that Mr. Khamenei feels threatened by a single political faction remaining in office for more than eight years.

AFP quoted Bornanews, which is linked to state news agency IRNA, as saying on its website that Mr. Ahmadinejad felt there was a “conspiracy” to curtail his powers.

Bornanews said Mr. Ahmadinejad has decided to “settle the problem directly with the supreme leader.”

The reformist opposition website Rahesabz reported that the president had expressed his frustration at not being able to dismiss Mr. Moslehi.

However, there are people who want to understand why the president wanted Mr. Moslehi in the first place. The conservative website Khabaronline said on Wednesday that around 50 lawmakers signed a petition demanding the president to appear before parliament and explain himself.

(Dina Al-Shibeeb of Al Arabiya can be reached at: dina.ibrahim@mbc.net)

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