NewsSpecial WireIran denies high-level rift - analyst

Iran denies high-level rift – analyst

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Iran Focus: London, Nov. 12 – Photos of the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and defeated presidential contender and former President Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani standing side by side and shaking hands are causing a stir among Iran analysts who suspect it was a deliberate gesture of national unity among senior figures of the religious theocracy. Iran Focus

London, Nov. 12 – Photos of the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and defeated presidential contender and former President Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani standing side by side and shaking hands are causing a stir among Iran analysts who suspect it was a deliberate gesture of national unity among senior figures of the religious theocracy.

The photos were released by the office of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and published by the Mehr news agency, owned by the same office. They show election rivals Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani walking alongside the Supreme Leader as they head for the Eid al-Fitr prayers marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. One photo shows the pair smiling as they shake hands.

Ahmadinejad’s loyalty lies strictly with Khamenei, who is widely believed to have been behind the hard-line President’s election victory over Rafsanjani.

Though released this Friday, the photos were originally taken a week prior to their release on November 4.

The timing of the photos’ release by the Supreme Leader’s office coincides with growing domestic and international speculation that Khamenei and Rafsanjani may have grown further adrift.

“The ties between Khamenei and Rafsanjani are long-established and complex, and whatever their quarrels, they know they must stick together to assure the survival of clerical rule”, Arezou Shokrani, a London-based writer on Iranian affairs, said of the photos.

Khamenei and Rafsanjani were top aides to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in the first years after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

“Last Friday, when Khamenei headed a prayers congregation at Tehran, Rafsanjani was invited to stand right next to him – something that went completely against the Islamic culture since worshippers must always stand inline behind the prayers leader”, Shokrani said.

Whatever the reasons for decision to release the photos, she said, the message to the international community was that Iran’s leaders were not divided if the West “upped the ante” and attempted to isolate the regime.

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