Ahmadinejad denies clash with Supreme Leader

Iran's parliament grilled President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday over a long list of accusations, including that he mismanaged the economy and defied the authority of the country's supreme leader.

Mr Ahmadinejad is the first president in the country's history to be hauled before the Iranian parliament, a serious blow to his standing in a conflict pitting him against lawmakers and the country's powerful clerical establishment.

Iran's constitution gives parliament the legal right to question the president, but the body had never before taken a step that undermined Mr Ahmadinejad's prestige and could set the stage for his impeachment should lawmakers determine his answers were unsatisfactory.

Mr Ahmadinejad sniped back defiantly at his questioners, provoking the wrath of the chamber with sarcastic jokes. "If the parliament had supported Ahmadinejad before today, it's now lost," remarked lawmaker Mohammad Taqi Rahbar.

Like many other conservatives, Mr Rahbar supported Mr Ahmadinejad prior to April 2011, when the president publicly challenged Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all matters of state, over the appointment of the intelligence chief. This – combined with the President's perceived reluctance to heed expert economic advice – convinced many hard-liners Mr Ahmadinejad wanted to expand the powers of the Iranian presidency.

Some questions focused on the President's refusal for 11 days to implement an order from Mr Khamenei to reinstate intelligence minister Heidar Moslehi, sacked by the President in April 2011. The President denied challenging Mr Khamenei, answering as if there had never been a showdown with the Supreme Leader.