Iranian presidential aide arrested
A top aide in the office of the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been arrested, adding to tension at the heart of the regime, Guardian reported.
Iran's semi-official Fars news agency reported the arrest of a man identified only as "one of the top officials in the presidential office". Conservative websites later named him as Kazem Kiapasha and described him as a close ally of Ahmadinejad's chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei.
The move comes after the arrest of at least 25 other people close to the president and Mashaei. They have been detained as part of an extraordinary power struggle between Ahmadinejad and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. Abbas Amirifar, head of the government's cultural committee ,was among those previously arrested.
Alef, a conservative website run by a member of the Iranian parliament, Ahmad Tavakoli, said that Kiapasha had been appointed by Mashaei to take over a key position in the presidential office. The position enabled him to vet all presidential aides before being hired, according to Alef.
The attack on Ahmadinejad's narrowing circle has intensified after senior figures in the powerful Revolutionary Guards and the regime's influential clerics began verbal assaults targeting the president and his allies.
Mashaei, who has been touted as Ahmadinejad's chosen successor, is caught at the centre of the row.
On Wednesday, a weekly run by radical supporters of Khamenei carried a headline that read "Arrest Mashaei". The hardline publication, Ya Lesara, accused Mashaei of being the head of a "deviant current" in Ahmadinejad's inner circle and of attempting to undermine the supreme leader's authority. Ghassem Fadayi, a cleric close to Khamenei, said that Ahmadinejad is becoming "humanist", a characteristic deplored by Muslim scholars.
An opposition website on Thursday claimed that Mashaei and Ahmadinejad's executive deputy, Hamid Baghaei, had been interrogated by Khamenei's intelligence officers twice in the past few days. Supporters of Khamenei have also accused Mashaei of spying on behalf of foreign governments.
Hossein Fadayi, a conservative MP, said Mashaei was in contact with "foreign secret services". Espionage is punishable by death under Iranian law. Mashaei's sympathisers say that conservatives are preparing grounds for his arrest.
In a separate incident in Tehran, the government's news agency, Irna, which is run by Ahmadinejad's media adviser, sued Keyhan, a daily under the direct control of the supreme leader.