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Council of Experts meeting next week

TEHRAN, Sep 2 (AFP) - Iran's powerful Council of Experts, charged with appointing and revoking the Islamic republic's supreme leader, will hold a rare meeting next week, press reports said Thursday.

"The meeting will be held on Monday in the holy northeastern city of Mashhad," Tehran papers reported, without giving details on the nature or reason for this extraordinary meeting.

The political-religious council was founded in December 1982 and charged with choosing a successor to the religious guide (Vali-e-Faqih), Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic republic.

Elected for an eight-year term last October, the conservative dominated council which comprises clerics only, must assure the supreme leader's supremacy over the Islamic republic's institutions.

The council is currently co-chaired by Ayatollah Ali Meshkini who is also Friday prayer leader at the holy central Iranian city of Qom, and by former president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani.

Pivot of the system, the supreme leader, currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, heads the armed forces, and appoints among others the country's elite Friday prayer leaders, and the judiciary chief, and can intervene in practically all of the country's affairs via personal representatives.

Two years ago, the Council of Experts reconfirmed Khamenei's post as supreme leader amid increasing criticism by numerous factions and radical or liberal Islamists over its constitutional legitimacy.

Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, once in line to be Iran's supreme leader, but whose fierce criticisms of the regime have left him under house arrest for the last 10 years, angered conservatives two years ago by condemning their hold over the nation's politics while denouncing the leader's interference in political affairs.

The comments sparked nationwide demonstrations and led to the closure of Montazeri's office in the northeastern city of Mashhad and the sacking of his office at the Koranic school in the holy city of Qom.


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