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Ahmadinejad backs VP Mashaei over Islam remarks, says confides him

Source: Mehr News Agency, Tehran

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad once again threw his weight behind his aide Rahim Mashaei despite a widespread backlash from principalists. Mashaei has caused uproar for his controversial remarks about the Islamic and Iranian ideology.

Esfandiar Rahim Mashai at the controversial conference

"Mashaei is the president's Chief of Staff and I have full trust in him," Ahmadinejad told reporters after Wednesday's cabinet session.

"The atmosphere of criticism is a necessity and nobody should be condemned for voicing his viewpoints and not every difference of opinion should lead to a (verbal) fight," Ahmadinejad noted.

Ahmadinejad said that the attacks against Mashaei are the work of "certain political groups" who are trying to undermine the government.

On Monday Iran's Armed Forces Joint Chief of Staff, General Hassan Firouzabadi, described Mashaei's remarks as a "crime against national security."

Rahim-Mashaei, who is widely regarded as the closest aide to the president, said on August 4 in a gathering of Iranian expatriates that "The country should introduce the ideology of Iran, rather than Islam, to the world."

His remarks invoked the ire of conservatives a top of them clergies who accused Mashaei of advocating nationalism and secularism.

Following his Wednesday's remarks the president and Mashaei have worked hard to tone down the controversial remarks and contain the barrage of harsh criticisms against Mashaei that had dominated the headlines of Iranian newspapers.

It is not the first time that Mashaei has caused controversy.

Mashaei has been quite a controversial figure in the Iranian politics. His remarks and statements have drawn up uproar among conservative and principalists on various occasions.

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