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Iran's embattled president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has warned his opponents against detaining any members of his cabinet in his first public reaction to the recent arrests of his close allies.
Speaking to reporters after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, the president said the arrests were politically motivated, and vowed to defend his government. Ahmadinejad's inner circle has been reduced to a handful of people after a rift emerged between him and Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
"I will hold myself responsible to defend the cabinet ... the cabinet is a red line and if they want to touch the cabinet, then defending it is my duty," Ahmadinejad was quoted by Iran's Irna state news agency as saying.
"From our point of view, these moves are political and it's clear to us that they are aimed at putting pressure on the government," he added.
Ahmadinejad's remarks come a week after three of his close allies, Muhammad Sharif Malekzadeh, a former deputy foreign minister, Alireza Moghimi, a senior director and Afshin Ronaghi, a deputy minister of industries and mines, were arrested.