Middle East

Missing Iran leader Ahmadinejad under pressure from MPs

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran, 4 April
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has not been seen for eight days

Powerful MPs in Iran have called for a closed debate on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's apparent boycott of his official duties.

The president has not been seen at his office for days, missing two cabinet meetings and cancelling a visit to the holy city of Qom.

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, recently re-instated a cabinet minister he had pushed out.

Analysts believe an internal power struggle may be under way.

One conservative MP, Gholamreza Mesbahimoghadam, told parliament on Saturday: "Let the Majlis [parliament] do its legal job."

This was a tacit call for Mr Ahmadinejad's impeachment, the BBC's Mohsen Asgari in Tehran says.

Some MPs have accused Mr Ahmadinejad's supporters of putting pressure on ministers to sign a letter backing president against the supreme leader.

Simmering tensions between supporters of the two men came to a head on 17 April, when Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi was forced to resign, our correspondent adds.

Mr Moslehi was promptly re-instated by the supreme leader.

Under the constitution, the president is in charge of appointing ministers - who then need to be approved by parliament.

Nearly 300 MPs urged Mr Ahmadinejad, in a letter, to respect Ayatollah Khamenei's decision.

While the president has not been seen at government meetings, Mr Moslehi attended a cabinet meeting last Sunday, the Associated Press news agency reports.

One unnamed reformist politician told the BBC that a "game of chicken" had begun.

"I hope one side yields at the end - otherwise it will move the country toward unprecedented instability that will certainly suck the current Arab uprisings into the country," the politician added.

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