Mourners pay respects to ex-Iranian leader


AP

TEHRAN — Mourners are paying respect to former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as Iran observes three days of mourning following his death.

President Hassan Rouhani and his administration on Monday appeared at a mosque in northern Tehran, where Rafsanjani’s body was brought.

Residents in the Iranian capital also expressed their grief at the loss of Rafsanjani, who suffered a heart attack on Sunday and died at the age of 82.

Rafsanjani died Sunday after a decadeslong career in the ruling elite, where his moderate views were not always welcome but his cunning guided him through revolution, war and the country’s turbulent politics.

The political survivor’s life spanned the trials of Iran’s modern history, from serving as a close aide to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini during the 1979 Islamic Revolution to acting as a go-between in the Iran-Contra deal. He helped found Iran’s contested nuclear program, but later backed the accord with world powers to limit it in exchange for sanctions relief.

Rafsanjani, who showed ruthlessness while in power but later pushed for reforms, died Sunday after suffering a heart attack, state media reported. He was 82.

Rafsanjani served as president from 1989 to 1997, during a period of significant changes in Iran. At the time, the country was struggling to rebuild its economy after a devastating 1980s war with Iraq, while also cautiously allowing some wider freedoms, as seen in Iran’s highly regarded film and media industry.

He also oversaw key developments in Iran’s nuclear program by negotiating deals with Russia to build an energy-producing reactor in Bushehr, which finally went into service in 2011 after long delays. Behind the scenes, he directed the secret purchase of technology and equipment from Pakistan and elsewhere.

After years of waning influence, Rafsanjani was handed an unexpected political resurgence with the 2013 victory of a fellow moderate, Hassan Rouhani, giving him an insider role in efforts that would culminate in the 2015 nuclear agreement.

His image also had darker undertones. He was named by prosecutors in Argentina among Iranian officials suspected of links to a 1994 bombing of a Jewish center that killed 85 people.