Iranian newspapers reported Monday for the second time in a week that reformist Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Ayatollah Mohajerani, bane of the conservative faction, had resigned.
Ahmad Borghani, a former press department head at the ministry, told the centrist daily Khorassan, "Mohajerani has resigned. The president has accepted."
The conservative Abrar said Mohajerani's replacement would be either one of his deputies, Masjed Jamei, or Zahra Rahnavard, wife of former prime minister Mir Hossein-Mussavi.
The paper said it had questioned Mohajerani, a regular target of conservatives over his handling of the press, on Sunday and been told that he would speak in two weeks.
The daily Ressalat said Mohajerani had handed in a strongly-worded resignation letter several days ago and President Mohammad Khatami had asked him to tone it down.
The government daily Iran said Mohajerani's resignation would be announced after a conference on tourism in Islamic countries which he was attending in the central city of Isfahan.
Iran said Mohajerani would be named vice-president of Iran and secretary general of the Executives of Construction party. He is a leading member of the left-wing of the party which switched allegiance to Khatami from his predecessor, Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani.
No immediate confirmation or denial was available from Mohajerani's ministry.
On September 25 Khatami's office issued a denial carried by the state news agency IRNA that Mohajerani had resigned.
The denial also followed press reports that the resignation of Mohajerani, a close Khatami ally who survived an impeachment scare last year, had been accepted by the president.
A culture ministry spokesman told AFP then that the minister had "in no way" offered to step down.
Mohajerani's ministry supervises the issuing of press licenses, and he has regularly come under heavy fire from conservatives since the new pro-reform press flourished after Khatami's 1997 election.
But the conservative courts in April launched a crackdown that has seen the closure of more than 20 mostly pro-Khatami newspapers and journals, and the arrest of several leading journalists and press chiefs -- TEHRAN (AFP)
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