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Removal of Ahmadinejad billboard veiled in mystery

Report by Press TV

Controversy surrounds the removal of billboards of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from the streets of the Iranian capital of Tehran.

The country's oil ministry had during the past month installed billboards across Tehran to celebrate ten years of Iranian achievements in the oil sector.

The billboards that had images of the Iranian president, however, were taken down after two days with the related officials blaming each other for the removal.

The municipality said the pictures lacked the required license from the culture ministry and were thus removed by the concerned contractor.

Oil ministry officials claim, however, that the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance had officially authorized the pictures and that a top official at the municipality had ordered the pictures to be taken off the streets.

"From a total of 70 pictures, four had contained images of the president," Seyyed Ziaeddin Noureddini, head of the ministry's Public Relations Department said on Monday.

"Our question from the municipality is why these particular images have been removed and the rest remain standing? Isn't the president the second top official of this country?" he added.

A senior official at the municipality said his organization had no role in taking down the pictures.

"No top municipality authority has been involved, the contractor realized that the pictures were illegal and took them down. It's as simple as that," Hojatollah Molla-Salehi said on the issue.

When the contracting company was contacted, an official also denied the allegations and refrained from identifying the "top authority" responsible for the incident.

"Don't ask who did it. If I reveal any names both you and me will be in great trouble," an official at the municipality told Iranian daily Iran on condition of anonymity.

"I can only say that a high authority has been involved," the official said.

With only four months to the country's presidential elections candidates in Iran are rallying for voter support.

Former president Mohammad Khatami and ex-Majlis speaker Mehdi Karroubi -- who head of the Etemad-e Melli (National Confidence) party -- have formally announced their bid to contest the presidency on the Reformist platform.

Incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is also expected to enter the presidential race for re-election in the country's June 12 elections.

Among other candidates is Tehran's mayor, Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf, who is contemplating on whether to run in the country's 10th presidential elections.

Qalibaf was a presidential candidate that ran on the Principlist platform in 2005 but his bid was ended by a run-off between the incumbent president and former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Qalibaf came fourth in the 2005 elections.

Shortly afterwards, the former police chief was appointed as the mayor of Tehran -- a post which was once held by President Ahmadinejad.

... Payvand News - 03/04/09 ... --

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