Iranian finance, interior ministers to be replaced

Tehran - The ministers of finance and interior will be replaced in Iran, government spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham said Wednesday.

In an interview with state news agency IRNA, Elham said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad decided to replace Finance and Economy Minister Davoud Danesh Jafari and Interior Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi.

On Saturday the spokesman categorically denied speculation of replacements in the Ahmadinejad cabinet, calling them an April's Fool joke.

So far the ministers of cooperatives, of mines and metals, of oil and of social affairs and education as well as the vice-president, the head of the planning and budget organization, the Central Bank governor and chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani have all left President Ahmadinejad's cabinet, most of them reportedly due to differences with the president.

There is also speculation over the possible resignation of Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki but Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad- Ali Hosseini denied this.

The resignation in the Finance Ministry follows continued inflation in Iran. Danesh-Jafari is reported to be in line to for an ambassadorship to Germany or Canada.

Vice President Parviz Davoudi would be the most likely candidate to succeed Danesh-Jafari, but there is no word yet as to a possible new interior minister.

Inflation in Iran, ranging between 20 to 30 per cent, has led to widespread criticism of Ahmadinejad, even within the president's own political camp.

Observers say the majority of the conservative winners in last month's parliamentary elections are critical of the president and especially oppose his economic policies.