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Iran hardliner to lead top clerical body

Do Not UseDo Not Use 24/05/2016
This file photo taken on October 16, 2009 shows at the time Iranian Guardian Council head Ahmad Jannati delivering the Friday prayers sermon at Tehran University. Iran"s Assembly of Experts chose ultraconservative Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati on May 24, 2016,: Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati has been openly critical of Iran's attempts to normalise relations with the US and other Western countries © AFP Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati has been openly critical of Iran's attempts to normalise relations with the US and other Western countries

A hardline conservative has been elected chairman of Iran's Assembly of Experts, a powerful clerical body which selects the country's supreme leader.

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, 90, was one of the few hardliners to secure re-election to the assembly in February.

Reformists and moderates asked their supporters to vote tactically to stop most of them retaining their seats.

But Ayatollah Jannati's election is a signal that hardliners are still in control of the assembly.

The composition of the assembly is seen as significant given that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is 77 and has suffered ill-health.

The supreme leader is Iran's most powerful figure, and has the final say on all policy in Iran.

Ayatollah Jannati has been openly critical of moderate President Hassan Rouhani and his desire to open Iran to greater trade and investment and deepen dialogue with the West.

The hardliner is also the leader of the Guardian Council, an unelected body disqualified thousands of reformist candidates from standing in February's elections for the assembly and parliament.

He won the chairmanship of the Assembly of Experts on Tuesday with 51 votes, Iranian media reported.

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