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Ahmadinejad lashes out at hard-line critics

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says there is no rift between him and Iran

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, addresses a crowd during a rally to celebrate the 29th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution at Azadi Square in Tehran on Monday in Tehran, Iran, Monday, Feb. 11, 2008. (AP Photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian)

TEHRAN,Iran (AP) - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says there is no rift between him and Iran's supreme leader, lashing back at criticism from within his own hard-line camp.

Ahmadinejad says in a speech aired on state TV on Friday that his relationship with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is one of "father and son," based on "kindness."

Conservatives have increasingly criticised Ahmadinejad the past two weeks after he stalled in implementing an order from Khamenei that he fire his top vice president, whom Ahmadinejad finally dismissed. Hard-liners repeatedly warned Ahmadinejad that his legitimacy will be in doubt if he does not follow the supreme leader, who stands at the top of Iran's clerical leadership and has the final word on all state issues.

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