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IRAN - Profile - Hoj. Ali Akbar Rafsanjani.

Having serving two four-year term as president of the republic until August 1997, Rafsanjani remains very powerful and is chairman of the Expediency Council, a key post to which he was appointed in late 1996 by Supreme Leader Khamen'i. This council mediates among the pillars of power, mainly between parliament and the Guardians Council.

Rafsanjani was first elected as the fourth president of the republic on July 28, 1989. He was re-elected to a second term on June 11, 1993. According to the constitution, he could not run for the presidency again. But in 1989, he had managed to get the constitution amended so that the president rules as chief executive and the post of prime minister was abolished.

Rafsanjani's power base at the top of the theocracy has eroded since the April-May 1992 parliamentary elections, with the Majlis now dominated by the traditionalist camp. But this camp has become hugely unpopular in Iran and, behind the scenes, Rafsanjani is helping President Khatami widen his power base quickly in view of the moderates' stunning victories both in the May 1997 presidential election and in the Feb. 26, 1999 local polls.

Rafsanjani still has allies at the top, including many powerful ayatullahs. Most of his close allies now are vice presidents or ministers in Khatami's administration. They include Hassan Ibrahim Habibi, who remains 1st vice president (a post he has held since August 1989); Ataollah Mohajerani who now is the minister of culture; and former interior minister and leading Khatami aide Abdollah Nouri.

A Persian nationalist at heart, Rafsanjani is pragmatic - although this may not fit in with the Western definition of pragmatism. His daughter Faezeh Hashemi, a moderate and liberal MP for Tehran and one of Khatami's close allies, in March 1999 published in her weekly 'Zan' a Nowruz message to the Iranian people from ex-empress Farah Diba. As a result, she is now engaged in a fierce battle with the traditionalists who, she stated on April 10, "had nothing to do with the Islamic revolution". Rafsanjani, like his daughter and other Khatami allies, has repeatedly called for multi-party politics, saying "strong parties, positive for society, could lead to harmony between the Majlis and the government".

Rafsanjani remains popular. He has a unique ability to appeal to different groups at the same time which, together with his excellent timing for jokes, always make his public speeches lively. Usually he discusses problems with startling frankness, and he can say things which only a few would dare utter.

Born in Bahraman (near Rafsanjan) of Kerman province in the Iranian year 1313 (1934), Rafsanjani is the second son of Mirza Ali Bahramani, a fairly wealthy farmer. In 1948 he left home to study theology in Qom, under a number of leading theologians, including Khomeini. But he also involved himself in private enterprise. In 1963 he played a role in religious riots against the shah, which led to Khomeini's exile. His businesses flourished in the 1970s, and in the 1980s his assets grew considerably. By 1988 Rafsanjani had become a "multi-millionaire", with Iran's biggest pistachio export business directed by his brother Ahmad and one of his sons.

Rafsanjani is married to Effat Marashi, a sister of Mohsen Rafiqdust (see Downstream Trends). She is very intelligent and has a strong personality She has groomed one of their daughters Faezeh, a liberal, to become a leading politician. Their sons are in key positions. Mohsen, in his 30s, is a close aide and handles the family business. Mehdi, in his early 30s, has been involved in oil and other businesses (see DT). Yasser, in his 20s, is associated with the national sports federation - usually a step on the power ladder in Middle East politics. Rafsanjani's mother, Hajie Khanom Mahbibi Hashemi, died at the age of 90 on Dec. 21, 1995.
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Publication:APS Review Gas Market Trends
Date:Apr 19, 1999
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