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Parliament Speaker Says Khamenei Qualified to Rule

June 9, 1989

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) _ Parliament Speaker Hashemi Rafsanjani said today that President Ali Khamenei is qualified to be Iran’s supreme leader, even if it means bending the constitution, the official news agency reported.

Rafsanjani said Khamenei meets conditions outlined in April by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini for his successor and that settling the issue quickly has stunned the world, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Khamenei, 49, was selected to succeed Khomeini as supreme leader Sunday by the 80-member Assembly of Experts, chosen by Khomeini in the early days of the revolution to determine his succession. The appointment intially was reported as temporary, but Rafsanjani said Thursday it is permanent.

Iranian news reports have started calling Khamenei an ayatollah, a title reserved for the highest religious leaders, even though he is only a middle- ranking cleric. Khamenei’s second term as president expires in October and the constitution bars him from running again. Rafsanjani, 55, is the only candidate running in the Aug. 18 presidential election.

Rafsanjani, speaking at Friday prayers in Tehran, made his second public remarks in as many days concerning leadership posts, apparently working to consolidate positions of power for the more moderate faction he leads.

Although Khomeini did not name a direct successor, Rafsanjani said, the late revolutionary patriarch had hinted that Khamenei was qualified.

Rafsanjani read from an April 29 letter he said Khomeini wrote to a constitutional review committee.

He said Khomeini, who died of a heart attack Saturday at age 86, wrote that his successor need not be a marja’, or supreme religious leader, although that is stipulated in the constitution.

Rafsanjani quoted the letter as saying:

″From the start I believed and insisted that it was not necessary to be a marja’ to qualify. A just mujtahid (skilled jurist) who is confirmed by the honorable experts from throughout the country would be sufficient.″

The parliament speaker, who also is acting commander of the armed forces, said Khomeini gave permission many times for officials to overlook the Constitution.

″We all accept that leadership is above the constitution,″ he said.

Rafsanjani, himself a middle-ranking cleric, said experience in executive positions is more important than strict theological training. He asked who was more qualified to run the country: ″He who is more skilled in social, economic, cultural and political issues - the basic issues of state - or he who is in the theological school?″

The world had not expected such a swift transition, he said.

″The important thing is that with this swift (selection) we have stunned the world,″ IRNA quoted him as saying. ″It at once canceled all this propaganda about a power struggle and differences and divisions among radicals and moderates and this and that faction.″

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