Not content with taking on America and the West, Iran's combative president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has attacked a key policy of his supporters in the religious establishment.
By Richard Spencer, Middle East Correspondent
Published: 3:27PM BST 17 Jun 2010
Mr Ahmadinejad baffled conservatives in the ruling elite by declaring his opposition to the annual crackdown on "immodest appearance and behaviour" in the young.
Police use the onset of summer to issue fines to women found wearing make-up and nail polish, or figure-hugging clothes. Veils are tightened to stop showing so much hair, with light, nearly transparent head-coverings a particular target. Men deemed to be 'harassing' women while driving are also stopped.
In a television interview marking the anniversary of his re-election, Mr Ahmadinejad said he did not approve, and that the police actions were "designed to create tumult".
"The government does not agree with this behaviour and will respond to and control it as much as it can," he said. "It is an insult to ask a man and woman walking on the steet about their relation to each other. Nobody has the right to ask such questions."
Mohammad Taqi Rahbar, the leader of the conservative religious grouping in parliament, said Mr Ahmadinejad was betraying the people who voted for him and taking the side of the opposition Green Movement. "Those who voted for you were the fully veiled people," he said. "The badly veiled 'greens' did not vote for you, so you'd better consider what pleases God is not pleasing a number of the corrupt."
Mr Ahmadinejad's position in the dominant hardline faction of the Islamic Republic's leadership is unusual.
His main religious mentor, Ayatollah Mohammad-Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi, is regarded as extreme even by modern Iranian standards, yet he himself has no clerical title or rank and owes his popularity to his calls for greater attention to matters of this world, such as food and jobs for the poor.
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