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Iran parliament questions $4B taken to central bank, in further blow to Ahmadinejad
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) ' Iranian lawmakers said in a report Monday to the country's judicial branch that the Central Bank improperly took $4 billion from the country's general reserve, in what appeared to be another blow by the parliament against embattled President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The head of the Central Bank is usually appointed by the president, and the bank falls under Ahmadinejad's administration so the parliament's decision to report the allegedly improper transfer of money serves as a rebuke to Ahmadinejad.
The parliament is already demanding Ahmadinejad appear in front of it to answer a long list of accusations, including mismanagement of the economy. The official summons marked the first time an Iranian president has been called in front of the parliament since 1979 when the revolution led to an Islamic government in Iran.
The president has a month to make his appearance. Lawmaker Ali Motahari told Khaneh Mellat, the parliament's website, that Ahmadinejad will appear on Sunday in front of lawmakers.
During Monday's session the parliament voted to notify the judiciary about the $4 billion transfer, the parliament's website reported. The money was transferred from the fund, which also holds revenues from the country's oil sales, to the Central Bank in the first half of 2011, the website said.
The report said the Central Bank can be subject to a parliamentary probe if it does not return the money to the fund or provide evidence it was authorized to take the money.
Lawmakers met a number of times with the oil and economy ministers as well as the governor of central bank to investigate the money, the report said.
Ahmadinejad has been subject to increasing attacks in recent months from the same hard-liners who brought him to power after he sought to cut into the policymaking domain of the ruling clerics, who control all the key appointments and decisions.
Last April Ahmadinejad openly opposed an order from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who rules with near total authority, to reinstate the intelligence minister he had previously dismissed. The president then boycotted government meetings for more than a week in protest.
The ruling system fired back with a wave of arrests and purges of Ahmadinejad allies.
Ahmadinejad's loss of power was on display in last Friday's parliamentary elections which became a referendum on his political stature.
On Friday , his conservative opponents won a majority of the seats of the next parliament, which opens in late May.
Out of 225 winners of the elections, at least 115 were conservatives who turned against Ahmadinejad after he openly challenged Khamenei's authority last year. Also elected were six independent candidates opposed to Ahmadinejad.
The remaining 104 seats were split between Ahmadinejad supporters and centrists. In a huge embarrassment for the president, his younger sister, Parvin Ahmadinejad, lost her bid for a parliament seat in their hometown of Garmsar.
In the capital Tehran, only five winning candidates including Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, whose daughter is married to Khamenei's son, had been determined. Two of the five were ex-members of Ahmadinejad's cabinet. The fate of the rest of the 65 seats of the 290-seat chamber including 25 legislators from Tehran will be decided in April runoff elections.
Reformists were virtually absent from the ballot, showing the crushing force of crackdowns on the opposition.
Monday's parliament session was the first since the elections. The parliament was on a three-week vacation ahead of the vote.