Ahmadinejad ends week-long 'boycott' of cabinet sessions

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attended his first cabinet meeting for more than a week yesterday, dismissing rumours of a damaging split with the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to reports. Mr Ahmadinejad's close relationship with the senior cleric, who has the last word in the Islamic Republic's affairs, was strained two weeks ago, according to some analysts.

The Supreme Leader had vetoed the President's attempt to sack his intelligence minister. Since then, Mr Ahmadinejad has missed two cabinet meetings, something some foreign analysts said was akin to a boycott.

Speculation began to circulate that Mr Ahmadinejad no longer enjoyed the unqualified support of Mr Khamenei, something the government denied. Mr Khamenei had endorsed his re-election in June 2009 in a vote the opposition said was rigged. The Tehran Stock Exchange lost 6 per cent in value over the past three trading days due to the political uncertainty.

Without the Supreme Leader's support, any Iranian president risks becoming a lame duck. Before yesterday's cabinet meeting, the head of the national broadcaster IRIB, Ezatollah Zarghami, said Mr Ahmadinejad would express his allegiance to Mr Khamenei: "His speech to the cabinet ... will foil all the plots of the enemies of Islam and the revolution."