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Iran president reshuffles controversial aides

TEHRAN (AFP) — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad shifted two of controversial aides into new jobs on Saturday, state news agency IRNA reported.

Chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie was appointed as an advisor and secretariat head of the Non-Aligned Movement, whose presidency Iran took over this past summer.

Mashaie, the bane of ultra-conservatives in the regime, is accused by Ahmadinejad's opponents of seeking to undermine Islamic values, being too liberal and nationalist, and of exerting too much influence over the president.

Separately, Ahmadinejad named Mohammad Sharif Malekzadeh, a controversial former aide to Mashaie, as a vice president and head of the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organisation

Malekzadeh was arrested on June 23, 2011 on financial corruption charges, but was later released on bail.

His short-term appointment as a deputy foreign minister in July drew intense criticism from the conservative-controlled parliament, with lawmakers threatening foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi with impeachment.