The Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad begins his second term next week, undermined by a deepening feud with his fellow hard-liners and under assault from a pro-reform opposition movement that has shown it can bring out thousands of protesters despite the fierce crackdown that began seven weeks ago.
Yesterday Mr Ahmadinejad sought shelter with his top supporter, declaring that Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was "like a father" to him. The President accused his hard-line rivals of trying to drive a wedge between him and the man who sits at the top of Iran's clerical leadership and who has final say in all state matters.
In a speech in the north-eastern city of Mashhad, Mr Ahmadinejad said: "Some in recent days have portrayed the relationship between the leader and the administration as in doubt, they tried to imply distance and rift.
"What they do not understand is that the relationship between us and the Supreme Leader goes beyond politics and administration. It is based on kindness, on ideology, it is like that of a father and son."
Any attempts by "ill-wishers" would yield no results, he added, saying: "This path with be shut in the face of devils."
On Monday, Mr Khamenei will lead a ceremony formally approving Mr Ahmadinejad's second term. During Friday prayers in Tehran yesterday, one ultra-conservative cleric bluntly told Mr Ahmadinejad to listen to hard-line lawmakers in the make-up of his new Cabinet. "Before naming individuals for ministries, the government and parliament must co-ordinate," said Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati.
Activists have called for protests during Wednesday's inauguration.