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Top cleric may be playing role in Iran unrest

world Updated: Jun 21, 2009 09:47 IST

AP
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One of Iran's most powerful men may be playing a key role behind closed doors in the country's escalating post election crisis.

Former president and influential cleric Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani has made no public comment since Iran erupted into confrontation between backers of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and reformists who claim he stole re-election through fraud.

But Iranian TV has shown pictures of Rafsanjani's daughter, Faezeh Hashemi, speaking to hundreds of opposition supporters. And Rafsanjani, who has made no secret of his distaste for Ahmadinejad, was conspicuously absent from an address by the country's supreme leader calling for national unity and siding with the president.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praised Rafsanjani, 75, on Friday as one of the revolution's architects and an effective political figure for many years, but he acknowledged that the two have "many differences of opinion."

"Of course, the president's ideas are closer to mine," Khamenei said, warning opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and his supporters to halt protests or face the consequences.

Demonstrators clashed with security forces in Tehran on Saturday despite the ultimatum in the most widespread violence of the crisis. There were unconfirmed reports of violence in other Iranian cities.