Iran’s cabinet has set a 22 August deadline for organisations of the executive branch to relocate at least 40 per cent of their offices outside the capital Tehran.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad issued a directive on 21 July ordering the organisations to facilitate the process of relocating government workers currently based in the capital to other cities. The directive was subsequently ratified by the president and his ministers during a cabinet session held in Tehran, reports the Shana news agency.

The Central Bank of Iran has been tasked with transferring the accounts of the offices.

In April, the government announced that the capital would be moved for security and administrative reasons, although plans for the new capital have not been finalised. The idea has been mooted since the 1980s, but has never progressed beyond initial planning. So far no signal has been made for the location of the new capital.

The official government line is that Tehran is vulnerable to earthquakes.  Tehran lies on almost 100 faultlines, and Iranian seismologists have warned that an earthquake would be catastrophic. In 2003, more than 30,000 people were killed when the town of Bam in the southeast of Iran was levelled.

Pressed up against the Alborz mountains to the north, there is no further room for the city to expand its population of more than 18 million.