Iran's New Speaker May Pose Challenge to Ahmadinejad

Larijani, with ear of top ayatollah, seen as more pragmatic than president
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 28, 2008 1:02 PM CDT
Ali Larijani, Iran's former top nuclear negotiator, was today elected speaker of the country's parliament and is seen as a potential challenger to president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in elections next year.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Iranian lawmakers seemingly made their displeasure with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad known today, selecting rival Ali Larijani as speaker of parliament. Larijani ran against Ahmadinejad in 2005, and the two have often clashed since, the Los Angeles Times reports. As Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Larijani was often frustrated by the president’s inflammatory rhetoric, underlining what analysts see as a clash in style rather than substance.

Larijani, a conservative like Ahmadinejad, took up his mantle today with a speech warning the world against pressuring Iran on the nuclear issue. But diplomats who’ve worked with him say he’s more reasonable and informed than Ahmadinejad, and in Iran, where only those loyal to the ruling ayatollahs can run for office, he seems a pragmatic moderate.