x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Iran's deputy foreign minister falls victim to Ahmadinejad's fight with hard-line clerics

Dispute over Mohammed Sharif Malekzadeh is part of a burgeoning power struggle involving President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the parliament and the country's clergy.

TEHRAN // Iran's newly appointed deputy foreign minister has resigned under pressure from hard-liners who view him as part of a movement seeking to weaken the role of Iran's powerful clerics, media reported yesterday.

The dispute over Mohammed Sharif Malekzadeh is part of a burgeoning power struggle involving President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the parliament and the country's clergy. While Mr Malekzadeh faces corruption charges, the opposition to his appointment appeared more ideological.

In his resignation letter addressed to the foreign minister yesterday, Mr Malekzadeh denounced his critics.

"Despite dastardly manipulations and plentiful injustices done against me, I can't accept that you suffer from unjust pressures because of me anymore," the official IRNA news agency quoted Mr Malekzadeh as saying.

Mr Malekzadeh, who has denied the corruption allegations, is an ally of the president's chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei.

Mr Mashaei is sharply opposed by hard-liners who accuse him of seeking to undermine Iran's ruling system. He has been described by hardline clerics as the head of a "deviant current" that seeks to elevate the values of pre-Islamic Persia and promote nationalism at the cost of clerical rule.

Mr Ahmadinejad has strongly defended Mr Mashaei, whose daughter is married to the president's son, saying the attacks against Mr Mashaei are actually directed at him.