Hard-line Iranian cleric elected leader of influential panel

Iran's influential Assembly of Experts, which chooses nation's supreme leader, elects hard-liner as its chief

An influential panel of Iranian clerics chose a hard-liner as its new chairman Tuesday in a decision seen by one analyst as troubling for nuclear negotiations with the international community.

Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, 83, defeated his more moderate rival, former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, to lead the Assembly of Experts by a vote of 47 to 24. The group chooses and monitors Iran’s supreme leader, who has seniority over the nation’s president.

Yazdi, who was born in Esfahan, served two terms in parliament, led the judiciary and was a member of the Guardian Council, a powerful panel that vets candidates for the presidency. He is known to be close to other hard-liners and critics of Iran’s struggling reform movement.

The decision could bode ill for ongoing negotiations between Iran and six leading world powers, including the United States, over Tehran’s nuclear program, said an analyst. The two sides are seeking a framework for a deal by month’s end that would limit Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon while easing international sanctions on the country.

“Now that Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani lost to Mohammad Yazdi , it is a bad omen for the reformists camp on the eve of a nuclear deal” with the six nations, said Farshad Qorbanpour, a reformist analyst who spent eight months in jail after a disputed presidential election in 2009.

He said Rafsanjani “is the top politician who is supporting the deal with the West and reducing tension, as well as supporting President [Hassan] Rouhani and his negotiating team."

Mostaghim is a special correspondent.



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