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Middle East

Ex-president sacked for backing Iran opposition

Hardliners have forced former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani from his position as head of a powerful organisation of the clergy in charge of choosing or dismissing Iran's supreme leader.

Mr Rafsanjani has been under increasing attack since he gave tacit support to Mir Hossain Mousavi, the so-called Green candidate in the 2009 election, who alleges that he was robbed of victory over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by ballot rigging.

Mr Ahmadinejad has a reputation for treating his opponents as traitors and the president's supporters have been lobbying to remove the 77-year-old Mr Rafsanjani from the 86-member Council of Experts. He has been replaced by the moderately conservative Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani.

At the time of the disputed presidential election, Mr Rafsanjani wrote a furious public letter to Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, denouncing Mr Ahmadinejad for lying and violating "religion, morality and fairness".

Mr Rafsanjani, who was president from 1989-1997, still heads the powerful Expediency Council, the constitutional watchdog that approves candidates for parliament, president and the Council of Experts and frequently bans many of them from standing.