A blazing row has erupted between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and parliament speaker Ali Larijani over the restructuring of ministries, reports said Thursday, in a fresh sign of tension in Iran's ruling conservative camp.
The row comes shortly after an unprecedented rift surfaced between Ahmadinejad and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei which saw the president disappear from public life for nearly two weeks.
Larijani, an ardent critic of Ahmadinejad and who was defeated by the hardliner in 2005 presidential elections, publicly accused the president on Wednesday of "violating the law" by not following parliamentary procedures on the merger of ministries.
"If the government has ambiguities in understanding the law, the parliament can explain the law to the government," the reformist Arman newspaper Thursday quoted Larijani as saying in sharp remarks aimed at Ahmadinejad.
At the centre of the row are government proposals to merge several ministries, including energy and oil, so as to reduce their numbers to 17 from 21 in accordance with a overarching five year plan.
Ahmadinejad in turn lashed out at Larijani, saying parliament should mind its own business.
"The respected speaker of the parliament apparently thinks that he is the manifestation of the law, but this is not a true assumption," Arman quoted Ahmadinejad as saying after Wednesday's cabinet meeting.
"One should pay attention not to disturb and pollute the atmosphere of the country with such assumptions."
Ahmadinejad said Larijani himself had written the law, "but he had better read the law once again today."
"Certain people think that they are the employer and the government is their labourer, but it is better that the respected majlis (parliament) focuses on its duties and allow the executive branch to carry out its duties based on the law," the hardliner said.
Traditional tension between the conservative-dominated parliament and the government have been exacerbated by the political rivalry between Ahmadinejad and Larijani that first arose when they competed in the 2005 presidential election.
The two men have clashed often in the past but never so bitterly in public.
The political tussle comes after Ahmadinejad found himself in a row with Khamenei, the all-powerful authority in Iran.
Ahmadinejad last month disappeared from public life for a period after Khamenei overruled his decision to dismiss Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi.
He returned to his office May 1 after the two reportedly settled their differences.