TEHRAN (AFP) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has no legal right to assume the duties of the oil minister, the top panel which interprets the constitution was quoted as saying by local media on Monday.
“According to various articles of the constitution… the president cannot be personally responsible for the supervision of the ministries that do not have a minister,” Guardians Council spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei was quoted as saying by the Shargh newspaper.
His remarks came after Ahmadinejad announced on May 15 that he had taken control of Iran’s most-strategic sector for an interim period after dismissing former oil minister Masoud Mirkazemi.
Kadkhodaei said the Guardians Council “had been asked repeatedly” to intervene on the issue and declare its interpretation of article 135, which authorises the president to appoint a caretaker for up to three months after removing a minister.
Council members have ruled that the president was only allowed to appoint any caretaker except for himself, Shargh quoted Kadkhodaei as saying.
But on Sunday, the president’s top legal advisor Fatemeh Bodaghi insisted that Ahmadinejad had no intention of retreating from his decision.
“The president has already announced his reading of the constitution’s article 73 on supervision of ministries,” Bodaghi, vice president for legal affairs, said without elaborating.
“The issue has been settled and the president is the caretaker of the oil ministry,” she said after a cabinet meeting.
Ahmadinejad’s decision has fuelled speculation he could chair OPEC’s 159th meeting in Vienna on June 8, as Iran currently holds the presidency of the oil cartel for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
The dismissal of the oil minister, in line with a plan to merge his portfolio with that of the energy minister, has also become the subject of a political showdown between Ahmadinejad and the parliament.
The parliament has successfully argued to have final call on cabinet streamlining, while some lawmakers have criticised the disappearance of a ministry which is responsible for nearly 80 percent of Iran’s annual earnings through the extraction and export of its vast oil and gas wealth.
This is the second time Ahmadinejad has been challenged over his ministerial appointments in recent weeks.
Last month his dismissal of intelligence minister Heydar Moslehi, which was promptly vetoed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, drew the backlash of his political rivals in the conservative camp.