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Ahmadinejad to sack Iran’s economy, interior ministers

TEHRAN (AFP) — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is to sack Iran's economy and interior ministers, in the latest changes to the cabinet just after parliamentary elections, his spokesman said on Wednesday.

Economy and Finance Minister Davoud Danesh Jaafari and Interior Minister Mostafa Pour Mohammadi have been asked to step down, after persistent rumours about their political future, government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham said.

"Mr president on Sunday told me that he has personally spoken to two of his colleagues in the cabinet and asked them to move to another position to give service to the government," the official IRNA news agency quoted Elham as saying.

"The changes will be in the ministries of economy and interior," he added.

The departures will mark the ninth changes to the cabinet since he came to power in 2005. One minister also died in office.

Ahmadinejad's ministers of welfare, cooperatives, oil, industry and education as well as the heads of a key planning body and the central bank have either stepped down or been fired in recent months.

The changes — which Ahmadinejad has compared to a football coach rotating his players — come amid mounting criticism of his expansionary economic policies, which economists say have provoked high inflation in Iran.

The latest reshuffle also comes less than a month after parliamentary elections that saw mixed fortunes for the president's supporters and the emergence of a conservative faction critical of his policies.

On Saturday, Elham had vehemently rejected rumours that Danesh Jaafari, who has been publicly at odds with Ahmadinejad over how to tackle inflation, was to be sacked.

He was quoted as describing the rumours as an "April fools' joke" although he later said he was misquoted.

But the end of Danesh Jaafari's stint at the ministry appeared certain on Sunday when he admitted the government had failed to control rampant inflation, which figures showed rose to 18.4 percent in the last Iranian year.

Last May, Ahmadinejad also shocked the Iranian financial world by slashing interest rates despite the surging inflation, apparently without consulting Jaafari, who had insisted interest rates were to stay unchanged.

Asked about who the new ministers would be, Elham said: "Until the naming of new ministers, I do not know who will be announced. Let us wait."