Ahmadinejad names ally interim oil minister after row

Ahmadinejad had taken charge of oil minister after dismissal of Masoud Mirkazemi.

Tehran: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad named a close ally as caretaker oil minister on Thursday after his bid to take personal charge of the strategic sector sparked a political row with Parliament.

"In view of your effective record in government... you are appointed as caretaker oil minister," said a decree posted on the presidential website naming Mohammad Aliabadi to the post.

Ahmadinejad had announced on May 15 that he was taking charge of the portfolio on an interim basis after the dismissal of oil minister Masoud Mirkazemi in a streamlining of the cabinet.

The announcement provoked a showdown with Iran`s conservative-dominated Parliament that triggered the intervention of the Guardians Council watchdog body, which ruled on May 23 that Ahmadinejad had violated the Constitution.

On Wednesday, Iranian MPs formally notified the judiciary of Ahmadinejad`s violation and demanded that he appoint a caretaker minister "as soon as possible”.

Parliament successfully argued that it should have the final say on the cabinet streamlining.

Some MPs had questioned Ahmadinejad`s motives in seeking to take personal charge of a ministry responsible for nearly 80 percent of Iran`s annual revenues.

Ahmadinejad has not hidden his intention to field his own candidates against the incumbent conservative majority in Parliamentary Elections due in March 2012 and his critics have accused him of seeking a financial base to build up a campaign war chest.

The struggle for control of the Oil Ministry came less than a month after Ahmadinejad tried to dismiss Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi in a move which was promptly vetoed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Ahmadinejad`s critics linked his abortive attempt to dismiss Moslehi to the Intelligence Ministry`s vital role in vetting candidates for the forthcoming parliamentary election.

OPEC`s second biggest crude producer, Iran currently holds the oil cartel`s rotating presidency, the first time it has done so since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Aliabadi, who heads Iran`s National Olympic Committee, has worked closely with Ahmadinejad since his appointment as Tehran mayor in 2003.

Aliabadi served as one of Ahmadinejad`s vice presidents during his first term as president from 2005 to 2009 and was in charge of the physical education organisation.

After his controversial re-election in a vote his challengers charged was rigged, Ahmadinejad nominated Aliabadi for the energy portfolio but Parliament rejected the appointment.

Bureau Report