Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent pick for the country’s top vice president continued to draw fire Thursday, with a senior cleric issuing a fatwa against the appointment, a leading reformist newspaper reported Sunday.
According to the newspaper — Etemad-e Melli — Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi’s Islamic edict against the selection of Esfandyar Rahim Mashaie is part of a larger fatwa issued Wednesday — the same day the nation’s supreme leader reportedly called on Ahmadinejad to remove Mashaie from the top vice president post. There was no immediate reaction from Ahmadinejad’s administration to Shirazi’s decree denouncing the selection. The appointment of Mashaie — whose daughter is married to Ahmadinejad’s son — has been controversial because of comments he reportedly made last year, saying that the Iranian people are friends with all people, including Israelis. Critics also found fault with Mashaie for reportedly not leaving an area in Turkey where female dancers were performing. “The selection of such a person has certainly no legitimacy and if wrongdoings in the said selection have been committed, they must be rectified immediately, and a hundred times more so if the high-ranking officials of the system have given their warnings,” Shirazi said, according to Etemad-e Melli. Etemad-e Melli is a newspaper aligned with opposition candidate Mehdi Karrubi who, along with reformist Mir Hossein Moussavi, unsuccessfully challenged Ahmadinejad’s victory in the June 12 presidential election.
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Although there are 12 vice presidents in Iran, the first vice president is the only one who can lead a Cabinet meeting if Ahmadinejad is unable to do so. Despite the criticism surrounding the appointment, Ahmadinejad has defended Mashaie. “Esfandyar Rahim Mashaie is loyal to the revolution and the Velayat [the concept of the supreme leader],” the president said, according to Fars news agency. “He leads a simple life and is a servant of the people. He has been appointed the first vice president and will continue serving,” Ahmadinejad said. Mashaie, who is among the Iranian president’s closest confidants, was previously the head of the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, Fars reported.