TEHRAN: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has come under fire from many leading hardliners for appointing controversial figure Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie as his new first vice-president, and one report from state-run TV said Mashaie had resigned.
Mashaie, previously one of several vice presidents and in charge of a culture and tourism body, created a storm in 2008 by saying Iran was friendly with everyone, even the people of its sworn foe Israel.
In rare public criticism, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, an Ahmadinejad ally and member of the top legislative body, said Ahmadinejad had shown "a twisted face to clerics and elites" by appointing Mashaie last week.
"Ahmadinejad should not challenge conservatives with such decisions. I request the President to replace him," the cleric told one newspaper.
Many hardline lawmakers and clerics, had called on the president to dismiss Mashaie for his comments. Ahmadinejad said Mashaie's comments had been "misrepresented".
(China Daily 07/20/2009 page7)