Former Iran president Rafsanjani dies of heart attack-state media

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Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani casts his ballot in a parliamentary election in Tehran March 2, 2012. In the background is a poster of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the late founder of the Islamic Republic. REUTERS/Stringer

Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani died in hospital in Tehran where he was taken after suffering a heart attack on Sunday, state media reported.

State-run Press TV said Rafsanjani, 82, died despite efforts by doctors to save him.

Residents said a crowd gathered outside the hospital where Rafsanjani was taken in the Tajrish neighbourhood in northern Tehran.

Rafsanjani was an influential figure in Iran, and headed the Expediency Council, a body which is intended to resolve disputes between the parliament and the Guardian Council. He was also a member of the Assembly of Experts, the clerical body that selects the supreme leader, Iran’s most powerful figure.

Rafsanjani has been described as “a pillar of the Islamic revolution.” His pragmatic policies – economic liberalization, better relations with the West and empowering Iran’s elected bodies – appealed to many Iranians but was despised by hardliners.

His death is a big blow to moderates and reformists, depriving them of their most influential supporter in the Islamic establishment.

Since 2009 he and his family have faced criticism over their support for the opposition movement which lost that year’s disputed election to former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Alison Williams and Stephen Powell)

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