Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday took the government of President Mohammed Khatami to task over its record on cultural affairs.
"I am not at all satisfied with the deeds and the record of the government's cultural officials because they have done what they shouldn't have done, and not done what they should have," he said.
Khamenei, whose speech to thousands of people in the central city of Arak was broadcast live on state radio, has in the past made clear his disapproval of Ataollah Mohajerani, Khatami's popular culture minister.
The culture ministry is responsible for issuing newspaper licenses and Mohajerani has come under regular fire from conservatives over his supposed "laxity" in handling the press.
More than 25 newspapers and journals were closed by the conservative-dominated courts after pro-Khatami reformists won control of parliament in February's elections.
Conservatives put much of the blame for their defeat on what had been a flourishing and increasingly critical press.
Mohajerani, a close ally of the president and one of the most prominent leaders of Iran's reform movement, gave Khatami his resignation earlier this year only to have it refused.
He later said he would be willing to stand by Khatami but last month again announced his intention to step down in the face of a vocal conservative campaign against him.
The 46-year-old minister is also facing allegations of misappropriating public monies entrusted to his ministry and earmarked for funding pilgrimages – TEHRAN (AFP)
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