- The Washington Times - Monday, July 27, 2009

TEHRAN (Agence France-Presse) | Iran was plunged into fresh political turmoil Sunday as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fired his intelligence minister, while his culture minister resigned, saying the government has been weakened.

No official reason was given for the dismissal of Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie, which comes just a few weeks before Mr. Ahmadinejad is due to finalize his new Cabinet lineup.

Local news agencies had reported that four ministers had been dismissed, but Mr. Ahmadinejad’s office denied this, saying only Mr. Ejeie had been given his marching orders.

One of those reported fired, Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Mohammad-Hossein Saffar-Harandi, late Sunday announced he had resigned because of the confused reports about his “dismissal.”

“Unfortunately, due to the recent events which shows the esteemed government’s weakness, I will no longer consider myself the minister of culture and will not show up at the ministry as of tomorrow,” he said in a letter of resignation, as carried by the Fars news agency.

The Mehr news agency, meanwhile, quoted an informed source as saying that the intelligence minister, Mr. Ejeie, was fired “following a verbal quarrel between the intelligence minister and the president in Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting over the appointment of [Esfandiar Rahim] Mashaie.”

Mr. Mashaie, who last year said Iran was a “friend of the Israeli people,” stepped down as first vice president on Saturday after his appointment by Mr. Ahmadinejad a week ago stirred controversy and angered hard-liners.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, intervened and personally ordered Mr. Ahmadinejad to dismiss Mr. Mashaie.

Widespread protests after the June 12 re-election of Mr. Ahmadinejad, which some claim was rigged, left at least 20 people dead and have shaken the pillars of the Islamic republic.

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