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Ministry Merger Sparks Tension Between Iranian President, Parliament

Source: RFE/RL

A decision by Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad to merge eight government ministries into four has sparked tension with the parliament, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Ahmadinejad (center) at the cabinet meeting

The move, which was approved by the government on May 8, entails merging the Industries and Mines Ministry with the Commerce Ministry, and the Housing and Urban Development Ministry with the Roads and Transportation Ministry. The Welfare and Labor ministries will be merged, as will the Oil and Energy ministries.

As a result, four ministries will be abolished and three ministers will leave the cabinet.

Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani was quoted by Iranian media on May 10 as saying the decision to merge the ministries without the legislature's approval is illegal.

Larijani argued that the heads of the merged ministries should continue their work until Ahmadinejad dismisses them, as they were all approved by parliament for their posts.

But Mohammad Reza Mirtajedini, the vice president for parliamentary affairs, said that making structural changes in the cabinet has never required a second vote from the parliament.

Germany-based political analyst Hassan Shariatmadari told Radio Farda on May 10 that by merging the ministries, Ahmadinejad's government is taking on another challenge on the heels of his long feud with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei over Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi.

Shariatmadari added that the standoff between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei over Moslehi is not entirely over, and the latest cabinet changes by Ahmadinejad are likely to intensify mutual distrust between the two leaders.

Ahmadinejad accepted Moslehi's resignation last month, but Khamenei reinstated him to that post. Two of Ahmadinejad's closest aides were later arrested.

Copyright (c) 2011 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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