Iran’s Top Leader Defends Ahmadinejad

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s top leader is defending hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against growing criticism.

During Friday prayers, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denounced politicians who have been critical of Ahmadinejad.

Both conservatives and reformists have stepped up their criticism of Ahmadinejad in recent months. They accuse him of doing more harm than good in his three years in office.

Ahmadinejad has come under increasing pressure lately because he is refusing to dismiss Vice President Esfandiar Rahim Mashai who said Iranians were friends with Israelis.

Iranian lawmakers have been collecting signatures over the past week to question Ahmadinejad over Mashi’s controversial comments.