Iran MPs back sacked minister

TEHRAN: In an apparent snub to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the majority of Iranian MPs on Tuesday praised the intelligence minister who he has sacked.

Of the 290 MPs in parliament, 210 signed a statement saying Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie had passed a "great test" in defending Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"In the past few days we saw hojatoeslam (Gholam Hossein) Mohseni Ejeie passing a great test in which he defended the supreme leader and showed he would not hesitate when it comes to defending him," said the statement, carried by the official IRNA news agency.

Ahmadinejad sacked Ejeie on Sunday after a "verbal quarrel" over the delayed decision by the re-elected president to drop a controversial aide he had picked as his first deputy, according to Mehr news agency.

Iranian media reports said Ejeie told Ahmadinejad that he should have quickly dropped Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie as first vice president when Khamenei himself had ordered him to do so.

Khamenei gave the order in a letter to Ahmadinejad dated July 18, but the president acted on the order only a week later, triggering criticism from his own hardline camp.

On Sunday, 200 MPs asked Ahmadinejad to "obey" Khamenei.

The departure of the influential minister has triggered a new political crisis in Iran, engulfing Ahmadinejad at a time when the Islamic republic faces its worst crisis since the 1979 revolution.

The re-election of Ahmadinejad has unleashed a wave of protests by opposition groups that have shaken the pillars of the Islamic regime.