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Iran’s Ahmadinejad Fires Minister After Criticisism

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Dec. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fired the country’s health minister, Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi, the first female Cabinet member in the Islamic Republic’s 33-year history, state-run news agencies reported.

Mohammad-Hassan Tarighat Monfared will assume her responsibilities as acting minister, Ahmadinejad wrote in a letter published on the website of the state-run Mehr news agency. He didn’t provide a reason for the change.

Vahid Dastjerdi had said in recent days that an increase in the price of medicine is “inevitable unless sufficient foreign currency is made available to the ministry,” according a Dec. 25 report by the official Islamic Republic News Agency. Dastjerdi had earlier lamented her ministry’s “financial situation,” according to IRNA.

Iran’s rial has dropped as much as 40 percent against the dollar since August, leading to spiraling inflation, as tighter U.S. and European energy and financial sanctions curb oil exports and access to hard currencies. The economic pressure has revived political rivalries inside the Iranian leadership.

“We have problems transferring currencies and also being given access,” Vahid Dastjerdi said earlier this month on the health ministry’s website.

The central bank only freed enough currency to meet a third of the ministry’s $2.5 billion import needs, she said. The costs of basic household goods in Iran, including medications, have doubled in some cases, Iranian cleric Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi said yesterday, according to the Tehran-based Donya-e-Eqtesad newspaper.

Vahid Dastjerdi was approved as health minister in 2009. Two other women nominated by Ahmadinejad at the time for the posts of welfare minister and education minister had failed to get the parliament’s vote of confidence.

Iran holds presidential elections in June and Ahmadinejad isn’t eligible to run for a third term.

To contact the reporters on this story: Yeganeh Salehi in Tehran at yalehi@bloomberg.net; Ladane Nasseri in Dubai at lnasseri@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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