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Ahmadinejad defends his embattled chief of staff: reports

world Updated: Aug 12, 2010 22:09 IST

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has backed his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, who has come under fire from conservative clerics for remarks about Islam, media reported on Thursday.

"Mashaie is my chief of staff and I have every confidence in him. He is a believer, who is faithful to the principles of the Islamic republic," Ahmadinejad said.

A close relative of the president, Mashaie caused a stir earlier this month when he told a conference for Iranians living abroad that there was an "Iranian school" of Islam, distinct from other schools, which Iranians should "present to the world" to show the "real nature" of Islam.

His comments provoked a backlash from conservative politicians and clerics, who accused him of making "pagan" remarks about religion.

On Monday, Mashaie caused further unease when he told journalists that "if we want to present the reality of Islam to the world we should fly the Iranian flag," because "the Islam of the Iranians is different and enlightening, and will shape the future."