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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Iran vice-president replaced after budget dispute

International News, News HeadlinesPresident Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has replaced one of Iran's vice-presidents after a dispute over the national budget allocating body, an Iranian news agency said today,.

The Iranian press had previously reported that the outgoing vice-president, Farhad Rahbar, was critical of Ahmadinejad's move to restructure the budget body, but Rahbar himself denied that.

Ahmadinejad last month put the provincial offices of the Management and Planning Organisation (MPO) under the control of government-appointed governors, prompting fears that budget spending would be overly politicised.

As MPO head, Vice-President Rahbar had said he did not oppose the change but was quoted in state media as saying the plan should undergo ''more expert studies''.

Previously, the provincial budget offices had answered directly to the MPO. Although the MPO's chief is appointed by the president, the national body has a reputation for being staffed with technocrats concerned with Iran's long-term development needs.

Opposition politicians and press said giving provincial governors more budget powers would shift the focus to short-term political interests.

''I, herewith, appoint you as the vice president and the head of the MPO,'' Ahmadinejad wrote in a letter to the new head, Amir Mansour Borqei, Iran's ISNA reported. The president did not give a reason for the change, but thanked Rahbar for his work. ISNA said Borqei, 49, previously worked in the Energy Ministry and attended the same university as the president.

Ahmadinejad's economic management, particularly his government's failure to rein in rising prices, has come in for increasing criticism in the press and among lawmakers. The president, who swept to office in 2005 with promises to spread out Iran's oil wealth more fairly, has said the media has exaggerated the price rises.

Iran holds local council elections in cities and throughout the provinces in December -- the first national vote since Ahmadinejad won the presidency.

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