Iran’s deputy foreign minister Mohammad Sharif Malekzadeh has resigned under pressure from hardliners, who see him as part of a movement trying to weaken the role of Iran’s Muslim clerics.

Malekzadeh’s resignation is thought to have been accepted.

The dispute over Malekzadeh’s appointment is the latest in a continuing power struggle between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the country’s clergy, headed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Malekzadeh denies the corruption charges against him.                                       

“Despite the manipulations and plentiful injustices done against me, I can’t accept that you suffer from unjust pressures because of me anymore,” Malekzadeh wrote in his resignation letter to the Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi.

Iranian intelligence and members of parliament had urged Salehi to fire Malekzadeh. On 21 June, 33 Iranian legislators signed a motion and presented it to the majlis, or parliament, seeking to impeach Salehi if he failed to fire his deputy.

In December, the previous foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki was fired after disagreements over how to handle Western pressure (MEED 18:4:11).

Malekzadeh is a close ally of Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei whose daughter is married to the president’s son. Ahmadinejad is widely thought to be setting up Mashaei to succeed him in 2013. Mashaei is accused of trying to undermine Iran’s ruling system, with clerics describing him as a “deviant current”. Ahmadinejad and Mashaei are accused of trying to rig the parliamentary elections due to be held in March 2012.

In another parliamentary dispute, legislators rejected Ahmadinejad’s nominee for the post of minister of sport and youth