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Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Tehran, 3 Jan. (AKI) - Iran's top spiritual and political figure, Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei is seriously ill and will have to be replaced in the coming months as he is no longer capable of holding office, according to Assembly of Experts member Ayatollah Nasseri. The powerful clerical body appoints and oversees the country's supreme leader.

"Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei is gravely ill - he can no longer see very well, has difficulty hearing, and is no longer able to properly perform his duties," Nasseri told a women's group.

Iranians have speculated for sometime about Khamenei's health. But talk of the 67 year-old Khamenei's health is taboo and officials have denied he is seriously ill, although United States sources had previously said Khamenei had cancer. He is widely regarded as the figurehead of the country's conservative establishment. The survivor of an assassination attempt, his supporters call him a "living martyr."

The country's supreme leader since 1989, Khamenei succeeded the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, as president in 1981 and served two terms. His death or removal from office by the Assembly of Experts will trigger a power struggle within Iran's clergy, according to observers.

The names of three possible successors to Khamenei are currently on the lips of Iranians: Khamenei's son, Mjtaba; Iran's former reformist president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani; and Gholam Ali Mesbah Yazdi, the ultra-conservative ayatollah who is considered the spiritual father of Iran's current hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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