Powerful Iranian cleric barred from delivering Quds Day prayers
Los Angeles Times / Borzou Daragahi

Reporting from Beirut - A powerful cleric who supports Iran's opposition movement has been barred from delivering Friday prayers during Quds Day in Tehran, an annual day of solidarity with the Palestinian cause that is being turned into a protest against authorities, in a move that suggests the declining influence of Iranian moderates within the political elite.

Instead of Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his hard-line ally Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami will speak on Friday, the semi-official Iranian Labor News Agency reported, citing a spokesman for the prayers commission.

Protesters opposed to Ahmadinejad's reelection are planning to take to the streets Friday in an attempt to turn annual rallies in favor of Palestinian rights into opposition marches. Presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who lost against Ahmadinejad in a June election marred by allegations of vote fraud, along with former President Mohammad Khatami have announced plans to join protesters.

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