Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reprimanded the nation’s president and his political rival for starting a battle in the public eye, stating again the need to preserve a united front to fight western sanctions.
Khamenei spoke yesterday following a Feb. 3 face-off in the parliament between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani with the two trading accusations of corruption and immoral conduct.
“The head of one of the branches in the government accused the head of the other based on unproven evidence that hasn’t been brought up in court,” Khamenei said in comments published on his website. “This was bad and unsuitable.”
Ahmadinejad aired a video that allegedly links Fazel Larijani, a brother of the parliamentary speaker, and of the head of the judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, to corruption. At the end of the session, lawmakers impeached Ahmadinejad’s Labor Minister, Abdolreza Sheikholeslami. Days later, backers of Ahmadinejad heckled Ali Larijani during his public address in the holy city of Qom and threw shoes and clay prayer tablets at him.
“The other side was wrong as well on the impeachment.” said Khamenei, who has the final say on all affairs of the state. “Impeachment must serve a purpose. What’s the point of impeaching a minister a few months before the government ends its term?”
The escalating political infighting comes as Iran is battling a series of sanctions including a European Union ban on Iranian oil purchases and new U.S. measures this month that restrict the Persian Gulf country’s access to cash from oil exports. Iran, which is at odds with the U.S. and its allies over its nuclear program, is holding a presidential election in June.
Ahmadinejad, once a protege of Khamenei, fell out of favor with the top cleric during his second term after challenging his authority. Ali Larijani, a staunch follower of Khamenei, is seen as a potential candidate in the June 14 race. While Ahmadinejad is unable to run for a third consecutive term and will be leaving office in August he is seeking to retain some influence by promoting an ally for the post.
Larijani lost to Ahmadinejad in the 2005 vote and later stepped down as a nuclear negotiator over his disagreements with the president.
“When we are all brothers and we see the common enemy facing us and with its plots, what should we do?” Khamenei said. “My expectation from officials is that now that the enemy’s actions have become more intense they too must strengthen internal ties.”
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