Supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday slammed him over a decision to name a controversial figure as first vice president who once said Iranians and Israelis were friends. Ahmadinejad has come under fire for his decision Friday to appoint Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, his son's father-in-law, as his first vice president.
According to the AP, Mashai angered hard-liners in 2008 when he said Iranians were "friends of all people in the world — even Israelis." Mashai was serving as vice president in charge of tourism and cultural heritage at the time. All in all, Iran has 12 vice presidents, but the first vice president is the most important because he leads Cabinet meetings in the absence of the president.
Hossein Shariatmadari, a prominent aide to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and editor of Kayhan newspaper, said Sunday that Mashai's appointment caused "a wave of surprise mixed with regret and concern" among Ahmadinejad supporters.
"Many of the closest individuals to the president strongly oppose the appointment," he added.
Mashai also angered Iran's top clerics last year when he attended a ceremony in Turkey where women performed a traditional dance.