Iran’s president refuses an order by the supreme leader to dump the newly chosen official, who is despised by hard-liners for his remarks on Israelis. In Tehran, authorities crack down on protesters.

By Borzou Daragahi
July 22, 2009
Reporting from Beirut — Iran’s president, under attack by reformists after his disputed election victory last month, on Tuesday openly defied his most powerful backer, refusing an order by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to dump a newly chosen vice president who is despised by hard-liners for insisting last year that Iranians had no quarrel with the Israeli people.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad finds himself under increasing pressure from Iranian hard-liners who appear eager to reap political rewards after leading a weeks-long crackdown on supporters of opposition figure Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who say vote fraud was responsible for Ahmadinejad’s victory.

The leader of a hard-line scholars group linked to the Basiji militia said his organization would propose its own “desired Cabinet lineup” to the president.

“Our organization intends to become the government’s think tank,” said Lotfali Bakhtiari, leader of the group, in an interview published by Khabar newspaper. “We want to introduce our elite into the government to serve the country. No obstacle is on our way, even the current climate of mistrust.”

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