Tue, Jul 21, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Vice president of Iran denies reports he stepped down

CONTROVERSY The vice president, an outspoken figure whose daughter is married to the president’s son, has clashed before with hardliners over Israel

AFP , TEHRAN

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial choice for vice president, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, has denied media reports he has quit, his Web site said.

“Certain Internet sites published a report about Mr Mashaie’s resignation as first vice president in a coordinated action aimed at tarnishing the government,” a statement on his site, mashaie.ir, said.

“This is a lie and these rumors have been spread by the enemies ... of the government,” it said.

On Sunday, state-run English-language channel Press TV reported that Mashaie, a close aide to Ahmadinejad, had resigned three days after his appointment, which was strongly opposed by hardliners among the newly re-elected president’s own support base.

Mashaie, whose daughter is married to Ahmadinejad’s son, is an outspoken figure who last year earned the wrath of hardliners, including supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, for saying Iran is a “friend of the Israeli people.”

His nomination as first vice president had ruffled feathers among hardliners deeply sensitive to any breach of the long-standing taboo on relations of any kind with archfoe Israel.

The resistance to Mashaie’s appointment is a sign of the difficulties Ahmadinejad is likely to face in forming a new Cabinet after his hotly contested re-election in a June 12 vote that his main challenger denounced as a “shameful fraud.”

During his first four-year term, Ahmadinejad unleashed numerous anti-Israel tirades, calling for the Jewish state to be wiped off the map and describing the Holocaust as a myth.

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