Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad caved in to pressure from hardline clerics and the country's supreme leader today and allowed the resignation of his top deputy after a week-long standoff. For days, the president had resisted pressure to dismiss Esfandiar Rahim Mashai from the key post of first vice president. Mashai last year angered conservatives with comments friendly toward Israel.
The final blow, however, appeared to be the public reading on state television of the order issued earlier by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to dismiss Mashai because he is "contrary to the interest of you and the government." "After the announcement of the exalted supreme leader's order, Mashai doesn't consider himself first vice president," IRNA quoted a presidential aide as saying late today.