Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday said impeaching his interior minister over his admission he had a fake degree from Oxford University would be illegal, the state-run news agency reported.
The minister, Ali Kordan, faces an impeachment hearing Tuesday in parliament after an honorary degree he claimed was awarded to him by the British university was found to be a fake.
Both conservative and moderate lawmakers have called on Kordan to resign or face a no-confidence vote in the parliament and be dismissed from his Cabinet post.
Calls the impeachment move illegal
But Ahmadinejad called the move to impeach Kordan illegal, because the minister did not commit any wrongdoing while in office, the news agency, IRNA, reported.
"We do consider the parliament to be our ally, but we do not approve any impeachment," of Kordan, Ahmadinejad was quoted by IRNA as saying. He said he would not attend Tuesday's hearing, the agency reported.
Earlier Sunday, Ahmadinejad dismissed a government official over allegations he tried to pay lawmakers in exchange for their promise not to impeach Kordan, IRNA reported.
The official, Mohammad Abbasi, who was the director of the government's representative office at the Iranian parliament, had complained that he was physically assaulted by a lawmaker last week.
That lawmaker said he "confronted" Abbasi because he was allegedly trying to collect signatures from parliament members not to vote in favor of the impeachment in exchange for a check worth about $5,000, the semi-official Fars news agency reported last week.
On Sunday, Ahmadinejad downplayed the accusations, saying the case was a "mistake by an individual," IRNA reported.
Kordan admits mistake
Newspapers have quoted Kordan as admitting that he made a mistake and was prepared to offer an apology but won't resign.
During debate over his confirmation, numerous lawmakers argued Kordan was unqualified for the ministry post, some claiming that his Oxford degree was a fake. Kordan was approved Aug. 5 by a relatively slim margin of around 160 of the 269 lawmakers present, a reflection of the concerns.
Ahmadinejad defended Kordan amid the debates, dismissing degrees in general as "torn paper" not necessary for serving the people.