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Hardliner Appointed to Head Influential Iranian Government Council

Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, an Iranian cleric who has been identified in news reports as a hardliner, was elected Tuesday to head Iran’s Assembly of Experts, the body charged with selecting a new Supreme Leader upon the death of the current Ayatollah.

Reuters reports:

The surprise choice of Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi as head of the Assembly of Experts took place at a highly sensitive time, as Iran and six world powers face a March 31 deadline to reach the outline of an agreement over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program. …

In the internal election, Yazdi, a hardline cleric who headed the judiciary through much of the 1990s, defeated former president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani by 47 votes to 24, according to Fars news agency. …

The result suggested that hardliners within the Assembly had closed ranks at a sensitive time when a new Supreme Leader could soon be chosen – a decision in which the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the most powerful military force in the country, could also play a role.

Given his advanced age—Yazdi is reported to be in his eighties—Yazdi is not expected to be a candidate to succeed Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is reported to be in poor health.

Yazdi was considered by some to be a patron of former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and is a critic of Iran’s ongoing nuclear negotiations with the West.

[Photo: Manuchehr Lenziran / YouTube ]