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'Dancing' with the Koran lands Ahmadinejad aide in hot water

An Iranian vice president hosted a ceremony where women carried in the Koran, Islam's holy book, to music.

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An aide to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has come under fire for attending a ceremony that involved actions deemed insulting to the Koran, a row that has given fuel to the Iranian president's opponents before next year's election.

Mr. Ahmadinejad is expected to run for reelection in June. But criticism over his economic management is mounting and he faces a more hostile parliament, which sacked his interior minister this month over a fake university degree.

In comments published Sunday, opponents targeted his vice president, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, who is in charge of a culture and tourism body, for hosting a ceremony where women in traditional dress carried in the Koran, Islam's holy book, to music. Iranian media described the ceremony as a "dance."

"A violation of the sanctity [of the Koran] in the presence of your Excellency's deputy and under his management ... causes deep regret for every Muslim," the head of the Islamic Coalition Front, Mohammad-Nabbi Habibi, said in a letter to the president.

The Front is a conservative party that previously backed the president but, along with some others in the broad conservative camp, has become increasingly critical of his policies.

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