TEHRAN // Iran's top leader yesterday appointed a mediator to resolve an ongoing dispute between the country's president and parliament that has also challenged his own authority.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei named his ally and former judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi to head an arbitration body that will tackle controversies within the ruling system, the official Irna news agency reported.
The dispute with parliament and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's differences with Ayatollah Khamenei are part of a power struggle over shaping Iran's politics ahead of next year's parliamentary elections and the 2013 presidential balloting.
Ayatollah Khamenei's appointment could also be an attempt to weaken former president Hashemi Rafsanjani who now heads the Expediency Council, another arbitrating body in Iran.
Mr Rafsanjani has increasingly been alienated in the establishment because of his tacit support for the opposition in the wake of the disputed presidential elections in June 2009 that brought Mr Ahmadinejad another term in office.
The opposition has maintained that the vote was rigged, but a bloody crackdown led by the powerful Revolutionary Guard crushed massive street protests that followed the elections.
Although Ayatollah Khamenei has the power to remove Mr Rafsanjani from the post, there are concerns that such a move could further aggravate the current situation.
The establishment of the arbitration panel also means Ayatollah Khamenei is delegating some of his vast powers to Ayatollah Shahroudi to handle the widening political differences between Mr Ahmadinejad and parliament, possibly because the top leader wants to distance himself from the dispute and be seen as standing above factional politics.
Ayatollah Shahroudi will head a five-member panel of hard-liners known for their opposition to any reforms within the ruling system.
The opposition website sahamnews.org promptly denounced Ayatollah Khamenei's move, saying it was "an attempt to sideline" Mr Rafsanjani.