Former Iranian President Ayatollah Rafsanjani passes away

With Rouhani running for another presidential term in elections in May this year, the loss of the influential Rafsanjani will be seen as a setback to the incumbent.

It follows reports on Sunday that Mr Rafsanjani had been hospitalised with a heart condition in Tehran.

In 2006, Rafsanjani was implicated by Argentinian investigators in one of the deadliest instances of Iranian terrorism overseas - a 1994 suicide truck bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people were killed.

He headed the Expediency Council, a body which is meant to resolve disputes between the parliament and the Guardian Council.

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Rafsanjani was a founding member of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution and a close confidant of the current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, for much of the 1980s and 1990s.

Rafsanjani never shied away from contrary statements, including endorsing relations with the United States - the "Great Satan" as the founder of the revolution Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called it. Rafsanjani become one of Ahmadinejad's sharpest critics.

Rafsanjani and his family fell out of political favor after that. Like Rouhani, Rafsanjani was also an important supporter of rapprochement with the West, a still contentious issue inside Iran's government which is sure to flare up on account of this year election, as well the likely more hawkish incoming policies of President-elect Donald Trump in the U.S.

Rafsanjani has been described as "a pillar of the Islamic revolution".

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Iran watchers believe that he persuaded Khamenei to back a historic nuclear deal, reached between Iran and six major powers in 2015.

Rafsanjani will be remembered above all for persuading Khomeini to accept a peace deal to end the bloody Iran-Iraq war, during which 1 million people died.

This explains why Mr Rouhani was the first top official to attend the hospital where Mr Rafsanjani died.

After his defeat in 2005, Mr Rafsanjani became openly critical of President Ahmadinejad. A decade later, however, he was dismayed at the brutal crackdown against opposition groups who claimed Ahmadinejad won reelection through vote rigging approved by the ruling theocracy.

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I pray from deep in my heart for Divine blessings, mercy and forgiveness for him and express my condolences to his esteemed wife, his children and brothers and other relatives.

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