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Ahmadinejad sticks by choice for top deputy

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is seen during a military parade to commemorate Army Day, in front of the mausoleum of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, just outside Tehran, Iran, Thursday, April 17, 2008. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is seen during a military parade to commemorate Army Day, in front of the mausoleum of the late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, just outside Tehran, Iran, Thursday, April 17, 2008. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is sticking by his controversial appointment for first vice president in an unusual defiance of a reported order from the supreme leader for his removal.

Ahmadinejad says he wants time to explain his decision to appoint Esfandiar Rahim Mashai to the post. In a speech Wednesday, Ahmadinejad has praised Mashai as an "honest and pious man," according to the state news agency IRNA.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the president to remove Mashai, semiofficial media have reported. Mashai's appointment last week angered the hard-line base because of his past pro-Israel comments.


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