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Ahmadinejad's Billboards Removed From Tehran

Iran's Oil Ministry had reportedly installed giant billboards across the capital to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the country's oil industry.

But reports say that some of the billboards, which depicted a huge Ahmadinejad standing in front of what appears to be an oil refinery, were removed by Tehran's municipality.

The Oil Ministry has said that the removal of the billboards is a "political decision" by the municipality.

Yet according to a report by Press TV, funded by the Iranian government, no senior official from the municipality is willing to take responsibility 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.

It's not clear if Tehran's mayor, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, who is likely to run as a candidate in the June presidential election, is behind the removal of the billboards. Qalibaf has in recent months criticized some of Ahmadinejad's policies.

The conservative Qalibaf was a presidential candidate in 2005 but he didn't make it to the second round. Shortly after the election he took Ahmadinejad's old job and became the mayor of Tehran.

Iran's presidential election is four months away but the preelection campaign is already heating up.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

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