TEHRAN (Reuters) -- A senior presidential official has been sacked in Iran for offering a cash donation to try to convince lawmakers to stop the impeachment of the interior minister, the official IRNA news agency has reported.
Parliamentarians last week backed a move to impeach Interior Minister Ali Kordan, seen as close to President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, after he admitted a degree that he said had come from Oxford University was a fake. He said he had been duped.
The dispute has raised the political temperature when groups and politicians are starting to jockey for position before next year's presidential election. Ahmadinejad, who is expect to run, is already under fire for his economic policies and inflation.
Some lawmakers had complained that Mohammad Abbasi, head of the president's special office in parliament, had offered 50 million rials ($5,000) to MPs for building mosques with a letter to scrap the impeachment tucked beneath.
"The dismissal of the delinquent employee happened after the submission of a report by the head of the president's office to Dr. Mahmud Ahmadinejad," IRNA reported.
It said he was sacked on November 1 for "trying to obtain signatures canceling the impeachment of the interior minister under the guise of donating government assistance to build mosques." The impeachment is expected to go ahead this week.
'Unpleasant And Incorrect'
Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, who lost to Ahmadinejad in the 2005 race, criticized Abbasi's action as "unpleasant and incorrect" and banned him from parliament, state radio reported.
Ahmadinejad is expected to run again for president but has yet to say so. Pro-reform politician Mehdi Karoubi has said he will compete after losing in 2005 and former President Mohammad Khatami, also a reformist, has said he has yet to decide.
Other possible contenders include former head of the Revolutionary Guards, Mohsen Rezaie, and Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf. They both lost in the election four years ago.
Ahmadinejad swept to power on promises to spread out Iran's oil wealth more fairly. But his critics blame him for inflation of 29 percent and say he has squandered an oil revenue windfall leaving little in the pot now crude prices have plunged.
Iranian analysts say the economy will be the major battleground but much will depend on whether Ahmadinejad retains the support of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's most powerful figure who has recently praised him.
The president, whose ministers must be approved by parliament, is the head of government. But the clerical system of rule gives the final say to Khamenei.
Ahmadinejad regularly lambasts the West, drawing criticism from some reformists who say his tone has isolated Iran. But Khamenei has recently praised the president and on October 29 said Iran's hatred of the United States ran deep.