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Iranian Economy Minister Survives Impeachment Over Fraud

Iranian Economy and Finance Minister Shamseddin Hosseini survived an attempt to remove him from office over an alleged $2.6 billion bank fraud, after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged lawmakers to show “unity.”

In parliament, 141 lawmakers voted against the motion, while 93 supported it and 10 abstained, the state-run Mehr news agency said. The vote came after Ahmadinejad backed his minister in an address to the assembly today, calling on lawmakers to “join hands” with the government in defying foreign pressure.

“At this sensitive juncture, we need unity,” Ahmadinejad said in comments aired live by state television. The government was “under pressure from outside and from inside,” he added.

Seven state-owned and private banks are alleged to have been linked to the fraud. Prosecutors say the case involved the forging of letters of credit from Bank Saderat, which is partly state-owned, to secure loans to buy government-owned companies. Hosseini, commenting in parliament today, apologized to the nation for the fraud, saying he hadn’t been aware of it.

Critics of Ahmadinejad have used the case to attack the president, who campaigned against corruption before taking office in 2005. Ahmadinejad has come under pressure after his close aide and relative, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, was accused of having ties to the chief suspect in the case, businessman Amir Mansour Khosravi. The government has denied any connection to the alleged fraud.

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