, TEHRAN, July 20 – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial choice for vice president, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, has denied media reports he has quit, according to his website.
"Certain Internet sites published a report about Mr Mashaie’s resignation as first vice president in a coordinated action aimed at tarnishing the government," said a statement on his personal website www.mashaie.ir.
"This is a lie, and these rumours have been spread by the enemies… of the government," it said.
On Sunday, state-owned English-language channel Press TV reported that Mashaie, a close aide to Ahmadinejad, had resigned three days after his appointment, which was strongly opposed by hardliners among the newly-re-elected president’s own support base.
Mashaie, whose daughter is married to Ahmadinejad’s son, is an outspoken figure who last year earned the wrath of hardliners, including supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, for saying Iran is a "friend of the Israeli people."
His nomination as first vice president had ruffled feathers among hardliners deeply sensitive to any breach of the longstanding taboo on relations of any kind with archfoe Israel.
The resistance to Mashaie’s appointment is a sign of the difficulties Ahmadinejad is likely to face in forming a new cabinet after his hotly contested re-election in a June 12 vote that his main challenger denounced as a "shameful fraud".
During his first four-year term, Ahmadinejad unleashed numerous anti-Israel tirades, calling for the Jewish state to be wiped off the map and describing the Holocaust as a myth.