IRAN'S REFORMIST movement suffered a blow yesterday when the country's President, Mohammad Khatami, accepted the resignation of his most popular minister, and one of his closest allies, Ataollah Mohajerani.
After they won a landslide in February's parliamentary elections, Iran's reformers seemed unstoppable. But Mr Mohajerani's departure is the latest in a series of setbacks that have dogged them since, proving that the hardliners still hold the power in Iran.
As head of the influential Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Mr Mohajerani was the man behind opening up the free press that was at the heart of the reform movement until the newspaper closures of this summer. He promoted the flood of liberal newspapers that carry the President's message of greater democracy and the rule of law.
That put Mr Mohajerani under fire from the President's conservative opponents, and pitted him directly against Iran's influential Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The free-press policy had enraged Ayatollah Khamenei.
Twice before, in April and October, Mr Mohajerani has offered to resign. Twice, the President turned him down. But, yesterday, state television reported that Mr Khatami had accepted his resignation.
One analyst close to Mr Mohajerani's circle said: "Khatami did not want to accept Mohajerani's resignation - he was forced …