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Iranian Shiite spiritual leader dead at 78

July 25, 1997

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) _ Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammad Rouhani, a leading Shiite Muslim cleric, died Friday in Iran. He was 78.

Rouhani died in the Shiite holy city of Qom, his birthplace and a center of religious learning. He suffered from internal bleeding that followed an undisclosed illness, said a statement by the Al-Khoei Foundation, a London-based philanthropic group.

Rouhani was a student of the Grand Ayatollah Abul Qassim al-Khoei, who set up the foundation. Al-Khoei, the spiritual leader of the world’s 200 million Shiite Muslims, died in 1992.

Rouhani followed Al-Khoei’s principle of separating religion from politics and remained apolitical. That position distanced him from Iran’s ruling clergy.

Grand ayatollahs are the top clerics in the Shiite sect and carry great prestige. Only a handful of clerics hold the title.

Rouhani is survived by his wife, two sons and three daughters. Funeral arrangements were not released.

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