Iran parliament sacks minister over fake degree

Interior minister fired for lying about Oxford credentials

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Iran's parliament on Tuesday voted to sack Interior Minister Ali Kordan for lying about his credentials and presenting a fake degree from a prestigious British university.

Parliament speaker Ali Larijani said 188 MPs among the 247 present voted to impeach Kordan while 45 lawmakers were against the motion and 14 abstained.

"The impeachment was approved by parliament and he cannot be interior minister from now on," Larijani said in a speech carried live on state radio.

Kordan is seen as close to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is under fire for his economic policies and inflation that has hit 29 percent.

The row has caused major embarrassment to Ahmadinejad who has defended Kordan throughout the controversy and who refused to appear in parliament for the impeachment session.

It was the 10th change in the 21-strong cabinet of Ahmadinejad, who had described Kordan as a "victim" and insisted he be allowed to remain in the job.

A person who has to be entrusted with the country's security has mocked parliament's trust," MP Ebrahim Nekunam said in a speech carried live on state radio.

Nekunam said that not only does Kordan -- who worked as a university law professor -- not possess a PhD in law from Oxford as he claimed, but also that he "does not have a master's or bachelor's degree."

Kordan accused the media of launching a smear campaign against him by portraying him as a "terrorist" and "violence-seeking person", naming Israeli radio and unnamed Persian-speaking media based outside Iran.

"The sensitive position of interior minister requires that Mr Kordan serve in another post. What is important today is the reputation of the Islamic republic system," added another lawmaker, Ali Asghar Dastgheib.

Kordan had been under pressure to quit the cabinet post he took up in August after the prestigious British university denied awarding him any qualification through a representative, as he had claimed.

He had shown the purported degree to MPs in a controversial vote of confidence on August 5 when he was confirmed in office by 169 votes to 100.

The minister replaced Ahmadinejad critic Mostafa Pour Mohammadi in one of the many cabinet reshuffles since the president took office in 2005.

The parliament, elected in March, is dominated by moderate conservatives, who include rivals of the president. They have criticized the government particularly over the economy and price rises, the main gripe for most ordinary Iranians.