Sunday, September 12, 2004

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Profile: Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Profile: Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani: "Profile: Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani


Mr Rafsanjani warned student protesters in 1999
Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani ranks among the most influential politicians in Iran.

Once considered a progressive force, he is widely seen to have moved closer to the conservative camp since the election of the reformist President, Mohammad Khatami.

President for two terms from 1989-97, Mr Rafsanjani is currently chairman of the powerful Expediency Council, as well as a deputy chairman of the Assembly of Experts.

The Expediency Council arbitrates in disputes between the Majlis, Iran's parliament, and the Guardian Council, which can block legislation. The Assembly of Experts appoints the Supreme Leader, currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Mr Rafsanjani's pre-revolutionary credentials earned him a place among the trusted advisers of Ayatollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

He established himself as a powerful figure soon after the revolution as co-founder of the Islamic Republican Party. The party played a major role in Iranian politics until its disbandment in 1987 following internal wrangling over policy.

Mr Rafsanjani was Majlis speaker from 1980-89. In the last year of the 1980-88 war with Iraq, Ayatollah Khomeini appointed him acting commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

He is seen as the main influence behind Ayatollah Khomeini's acceptance of the UN Security Council resolution which ended the war.

As president between 1989 and 1997, Mr Rafsanjani sought to encourage a rapprochement with the West and re-establish Iran as a regional power. His influence in Lebanon helped bring about the release of Western hostages in the early 1990s.

Anyone who stretches out their hands towards Iran will have those hands cut off

Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani
Domestically, he has opposed harsh Islamic penal codes and promoted better job prospects for women. His daughter, Faezeh Hashemi, is a known champion of women's rights. Her reformist publication Zan (Woman) was closed down by the hardliners in 1997.

Since the war in Iraq, he has used Friday prayers to denounce US "plots" in the region.

"Anyone who stretches out their hands towards Iran will have those hands cut off," he said in one sermon.

And he warned students who took to the streets in June over the slow pace of reform that the US was "pinning its hopes" on them. "They should take care they are not entrapped by the Americans' sinister networks."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages."

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