April 5, 2008 / 8:37 AM / in 11 years

Iran denies rumors finance minister to quit

Iran's finance minister Davoud Danesh-Jafari speaks to the media at a news conference in Tehran March 13, 2006. Iran's government denied on Saturday speculation Danesh-Jafari would be replaced, three weeks after an election brought in a parliament that is expected to be more critical of the country's economic policies. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran’s government denied on Saturday speculation the finance minister would be replaced, three weeks after an election brought in a parliament that is expected to be more critical of the country’s economic policies.

Iranian media have in recent days cited rumors that Economy and Finance Minister Davoud Danesh-Jafari would step down, without giving a clear reason.

But, in the first official comment on the speculation, government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham told a news conference: “No changes at this ministry have been discussed.”

The conservative government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005 pledging to share Iran’s oil wealth more fairly. But critics say profligate spending has further fuelled inflation, running at about 19 percent year-on-year.

Conservatives retained their clear majority in the Iranian parliament in a March 14 election but analysts expect the assembly to become more vocal in its criticism of Ahmadinejad’s economic management ahead of next year’s presidential election.

Iran has reaped windfall gains in recent years from the high oil price on world markets and says its economy grows by about 6 percent annually, despite tightening international sanctions on Tehran over its disputed nuclear plans.

Analysts, however, say the nuclear standoff is making foreign firms more wary of investing in the world’s fourth-largest oil producer.

Ahmadinejad has called for the 2008-09 Iranian year, which began on March, to be a year of “economic transformation,” according to Iranian media.

Last year, he changed the country’s central bank governor as well as the oil and industry ministers.

Reporting by Hossein Jaseb and Zahra Hosseinian; Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Tomasz Janowski

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