Iranian president said to be grooming his successor
Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has moved his chief of staff and rumored successor, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, to another job, according to the president's official website on Saturday.
Unable to run again in the presidential elections set for June 2013, as Ahmadinejad finishes his last year in office, conservatives and analysts have accused him of grooming Mashaie as his "heir".
Members of the opposition were disappointed to hear that Mashaie has been moved to another powerful position, this time in the Non-Aligned Movement, the 120-member bloc of countries whose rotating chair is held by Iran.
Mashaie has faced criticism from conservative politicians and allies of the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who claim he is leading a 'deviant current,' that undermines the political role of the clergy, who are supposed to be the country's ultimate authorities.
The president's closest aide has also been accused of emphasizing the nationalist strain of Iranian history over religion.
In a statement on Saturday, Ahmadinejad thanked Mashaie for his service, writing: "I consider knowing and working with you to be a divine gift and great honor."
Vice-president Hassan Mousavi will replace Mashaie as chief of staff.