Page last updated at 12:40 GMT, Thursday, 6 November 2008

Khamenei enters fake degree row

Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Khamenei is implicitly giving his backing to his president

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned against undermining the government following parliament's dismissal of the interior minister.

He said God would not easily forgive those who made irresponsible remarks and allegations about the government.

Earlier this week, parliament voted to sack Interior Minister Ali Kordan after he admitted forging an Oxford degree.

The scandal has been seen as a major blow to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who faces re-election next summer.

He has been accused by MPs of grave naivety for having been taken in by his minister's lies.

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Ayatollah Khamenei said certain people in Iran were trying to blow some issues out of proportion.

Ali Kordan

"This careless atmosphere of talking against the government is not to be easily forgiven by God," he warned.

His comments were clearly directed against those who voted to impeach Mr Kordan earlier this week, the BBC's Jon Leyne in Tehran says.

And by implication, the supreme leader is also giving his support to Mr Ahmadinejad, who also came under strong criticism in parliament, our correspondent adds.

As if to underline the message, one weekly news magazine that has been sharply critical of the president over the scandal has said it fears it is about to be closed down.

Lawyers for the moderate Shahrvand Emrouz said it had been banned by the Iranian press watchdog, although it had not yet received official notification.

'Laughing stock'

Mr Kordan claims he was approached with the offer of a doctorate by the Tehran representative of an institution described as the London Oxford University.

But the certificate turned out to be an obvious forgery, which was littered with misspellings.

The scandal has made the former minister a national laughing stock, with a fake resignation letter being passed round purporting to be from him, but full of misprints and crossings-out.

One MP said Mr Kordan - who worked as a university lecturer - had related invented tales to his students about his days in Oxford. In fact he has never visited and does not even have a first degree.

The post of interior minister is crucial in organising the presidential elections which are due to be held in the middle of 2009.

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