Iran's president faces growing domestic criticism

Internal dissent appears to be brewing in Iran around the country's controversial president as conservative and reform politicians alike openly question his leadership.

Internal dissent appears to be brewing in Iran around the country's controversial president as conservative and reform politicians are openly questioning his leadership.

Reports from Iran suggest at least two recent documents written by legislators criticize President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his handling of the nuclear crisis and the country's faltering economy.

About 50 of Iran's 290 parliamentarians have signed a letter calling on Ahmadinejad to appear before parliament to answer questions on the nuclear issue, reported the BBC on Tuesday.

In a separate earlier letter, about 150of the lawmakersblamed Ahmadinejad for the country's high unemployment and inflation rates, and failure to bring the budget in on time.

They have also questioned his decision to take a tour of Latin America, which ends Wednesday, during a time of economic crisis.

A report in The Guardian newspaper Tuesday said Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blames Ahmadinejad for UN sanctions imposed on Iran last month for its failure to suspend uranium enrichment.

Newspaper editorials have openly criticized his handling of the nuclear issue, with one hardline daily warning his confrontational tactics toward the West are backfiring.

"Your language is so offensive… that it shows that the nuclear issue is being dealt with a sort of stubbornness," Jomhuri-e-Eslami said in a recent editorial.

The Islamic Iran Participation Front, the country's largest reformist party, has warned ignoring UN demands will further isolate Iran.

The sanctions ban the supply of materials that could be used in nuclear or missile programs, and freeze the assets of people and companies the UN believes are connected to the nuclear and missile programs.

Many Western nations believe Tehran wants to build nuclear weapons. Ahmadinejad has repeatedly rejected UN demands to suspend uranium enrichment, saying Iran has the right to a nuclear program for energy.

On Monday, Ahmadinejad said Iran is on track to build 3,000 atomic centrifuges with enough power to create nuclear weapons.

But the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the announcement shows the country's nuclear program is struggling under international pressure. They pointed out that Iran had boasted previously the facility of 3,000 centrifuges in Natanz would be ready before 2007.

Ahmadinejad has made headlines since his June 2005 election with inflammatory speeches questioning the Holocaust, suggesting Israel be relocated to Europe and comparing the Jewish state to a "rotten tree" that will be eliminated.

The president is described as the second-highest ranking official in Iran, behind the supreme leader, who controls everything from defence to foreign policy decisions.

With files from the Associated Press