A powerful anti-Western cleric was chosen on Tuesday as the head of Iran's new Assembly of Experts,
This is a sign that hardliners are still in firm control of the body in charge of choosing the next supreme leader.
Ahmad Jannati, 90, is a an outspoken critic of President Hassan Rouhani and his attempts to end Iran's global isolation by normalizing ties with the West.
The 88-member assembly, consisting mostly of elderly clerics, is expected to choose the successor to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is 77 and rumored to be in frail health.
The supreme leader has the final say on all state matters, including foreign policy. He is commander-in-chief of the armed forces and appoints the heads of the judiciary, state broadcasting and major economic conglomerates. By comparison, the president has little power.
In a letter to the new assembly, carried by state media, Khamenei asked the new members to "guard the Islamic and revolutionary identity" of Iran and pay attention to the "personal and political piety of the (next) supreme leader".
Even by the standards of Iran's clerical establishment, Jannati stands out for his virulently anti-Western opinions, once accusing the West of having created al Qaeda and describing U.S. forces in Iraq as "bloodthirsty wolves".
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