TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's supreme leader warned Saturday he will intervene in the government's affairs anytime necessary in an apparent rebuke to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for challenging the clerical leader's all-encompassing authority.
Their most recent confrontation involved Ahmadinejad's dismissal last week of the country's powerful intelligence minister, whom Ayatollah Ali Khamenei then quickly reinstated in a slap to the president.
Ahmadinejad, who has said in the past that Khamenei was like a father to him, has enjoyed strong support from the supreme leader, especially in the tumultuous period after his disputed re-election in 2009. At times, though, he has defied the country's most powerful figure.
Some have accused the president and his allies of trying to amass more power and challenge Khamenei's ultimate authority.
"I won't allow, as long as I'm alive, an iota of deviation of this massive movement of the nation," Khamenei said in a speech broadcast on state TV Saturday. "In principle, I have no intention to intervene in government affairs ... unless I feel an expediency is being ignored as it was the case recently," he said, referring to the dispute over the intelligence minister.
Khamenei, who was addressing hundreds of Iranian citizens in his residence in Tehran, said he was right and he would stand by his words.
"With the help of God, ... I firmly stand by our right stance," he said.
Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi resigned last week after apparent disputes with Ahmadinejad and the president publicly accepted his resignation but Khamenei ordered him to remain in the Cabinet.
In a sign of mounting tensions, Ahmadinejad has reportedly refused to give in to the order and has not invited Moslehi to the latest Cabinet meeting.
The dispute has also pointed to a potential weakness in the heart of Ahmadinejad's government, as its base of support shrinks among parliament members and others.
A statement signed by 216 parliament members — more than two-thirds of the 290-seat chamber — warned Ahmadinejad Wednesday that he cannot disobey Khamenei, who has the last word in all state affairs.
Hard-liners consider Khamenei to stand above the law and answerable only to God.