Iran's parliament on Tuesday launched impeachment procedures against Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi for appointing an aide to the president's underfire chief of staff as one of his deputies.
The motion to impeach Salehi, signed by 33 lawmakers, was officially "read out in the parliament on Tuesday by an MP in the presiding board," as required by the law, a statement on the parliament website said.
Under the constitution, the signatures of 10 MPs in the 290-seat majlis are needed to start impeachment procedures against an incumbent minister. The move needs the approval of parliament's presiding board before being sent for a vote.
The targeted minister has to appear before parliament within 10 days to defend his case and ask for vote of confidence again.
The impeachment move comes after Salehi on Saturday appointed Mohammad Sahrif Malekzadeh as a deputy foreign minister in charge of administrative and financial affairs.
Malekzadeh was a top official in the high council of Iranian affairs abroad, run by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, whom ultra-conservatives accuse of aiming to undermine the Islamic regime.
Ultra-conservatives, the Shiite clergy and the elite Revolutionary Guards have repeatedly called for Mashaie's dismissal, accusing him of leading "a current of deviation" and of exerting too much influence over the president.
Ahmadinejad has so far adamantly defended his aides, including Mashaie.
A number of influential deputies in the conservative-dominated parliament reacted to Salehi's appointment on Sunday by calling for his impeachment unless he sacks Malekzadeh.
In the impeachment notice, the deputies said that Malekzadeh's appointment was against national interests.
"Such an appointment jeopardises the nation's interests ... This person is on the verge of being arrested as (the judiciary) is investigating him over financial and non-financial cases," the notice said.
Influential MP Ahmad Tavakoli was quoted by the Iranian media on Monday as saying that the minister of intelligence had "told Salehi in writing that he is opposed to the appointment of Malekzadeh to the post of deputy foreign minister."
According to lawmakers in parliament's commission of national security and foreign policy, Salehi has given an undertaking that if he finds Malekzadeh has a criminal charges pending against him, he will be sacked.
On Tuesday, the vice-president in charge of parliamentary affairs, Mohammad Reza Mirtajeddini, was quoted on parliament's website as saying that "there is the possibility of resolving the issue."