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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

We turn now to Iran and its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It appears he is facing growing unease within the country over his handling of the economy, and over the ongoing dispute with the international community regarding Iran's nuclear program.

Gareth Smyth is a correspondent of the Financial Times, who covers Iran, and we got him on the line earlier in Tehran.

Mr. GARETH SMYTH (Correspondent, Financial Times): Good morning.

MONTAGNE: How serious has the opposition to Ahmadinejad become?

Mr. SMYTH: I think it is becoming serious, and this is pretty much an unprecedented situation in modern Iranian history. The disquiet in the parliament, particularly over the effect to the government's economic policy, particularly on inflation and unemployment, has got to the state where parliament - rather than summoning ministers to question them - sends through urgent resolutions which are twice underlined.

On the nuclear issue, the opinion makers here are becoming increasingly concerned that George Bush's new strategy on Iraq - which sounded here very much like a new strategy on Iran - the U.S. seizure of the Iranian employees -perhaps diplomats, perhaps not - in northern Iraq, and at the U.S. military deployment in the Persian Gulf.

That sensed crisis over the international situation. It's bringing many people here to think that Iran can no longer afford the luxury, if you like, of having a president who sometimes puts rhetoric above what they feel is the country's national interest.

MONTAGNE: Remind us of who is in the parliament. There are conservatives, fundamentalists there. Is that correct? Are they part of this opposition?

Mr. SMYTH: Well, the parliament is dominated by conservatives. I mean, obviously, the reformists in the parliament who are a minority are those who are most critical of Ahmadinejad. And this is where the talk of impeachment is beginning to appear. But Ahmadinejad, since he was elected, has really failed to build political bridges even to people who you would consider to be his allies - I mean, traditional conservatives and even fundamentalists within the parliament. And criticism of him is now coming from these (unintelligible) as well.

MONTAGNE: You also mentioned the economy is a problem - inflation, unemployment. Those are problems, correct?

Mr. SMYTH: Yeah. I think the most common charge you hear, both from deputies in parliament and indeed from businessmen, is that the economy is being mismanaged. I mean, when Ahmadinejad came to power, he used very big words like corruption. He talked about taking on what he said was an oil mafia, which was running the economy ministries - particularly, obviously, the oil ministry.

And he brought in new managers with very little experience. Now lack of experience and failure to build bridges is not a particularly good way of running any country, much less one that works in the way that Iran does.

MONTAGNE: And just recently, we saw a student protest at Tehran University. Does that reflect an unease among younger people in Iran?

Mr. SMYTH: I think it reflects an unease - which there's been from the beginning - amongst Iran's intellectuals. It has always felt in this country that it was the country difficult to run unless you had some support amongst the intellectuals.

Now in the earlier period of Mr. Ahmadinejad's presidency, many people though that he was almost proving that wrong. But I mean, again, Mr. Ahmadinejad, as (unintelligible) it's not just reformist intellectuals, reformist students, but even many conservative intellectuals. There's an anti-intellectual tone to many of his pronouncements, which obviously doesn't go down too well in the universities.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.

Mr. SMYTH: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Gareth Smyth is a correspondent for The Financial Times, speaking from Tehran. You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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