By Sadeq Saba
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has expressed his full support for the country's embattled hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Ahmadinejad quickly made a mark as an outspoken president
Mr Khamenei said recent criticism of the president over his domestic and international policies was unjust.
Mr Ahmadinejad has faced increasing pressure from within the Islamic establishment for isolating Iran.
His first 100 days in office have been marked by strong comments on Israel and confrontation on the nuclear issue.
Ayatollah Khamenei's unprecedented move to support the president shows he feels the need to respond to deep resentment of Mr Ahmadinejad's style of government from within the establishment.
Mr Khamenei said the president must be given more time to accomplish his tasks.
President Ahmadinejad recently drew international condemnation by calling for Israel to be wiped off the map.
His radical domestic agenda and attempts to revive some of more austere values of the Islamic Revolution has also alarmed some Iranian leaders.
The former reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, implicitly criticised Mr Ahmadinejad on Sunday by saying Iranian extremists should not give an excuse to Iran's enemies to attack the country.
But it appears what really prompted the Iranian supreme leader to come to the defence of the president was the widespread discontent among the conservative camp over Mr Ahmadinejad's hardline policies.
The question now is whether the more pragmatic conservative leadership can rein in this increasingly belligerent president.