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Ali Khamenei studied Islamic philosophy and became a teacher in it. He was a key figure in the Islamic revolution and a close confidant of leader Ayatollah Khomeini. In 1981 he was elected President of Iran, and became the first cleric to serve in the office. Khomeini had originally wanted to keep clerics out of the presidency, but this view was compromised. Many saw Khamenei's presidency as a sign that Iran was abandoning any hopes for secularism, and becoming even more theocratic. Shortly after he assumed the presidency, Khamenei narrowly escaped an assassination attempt when a bomb, concealed in a tape recorder at a press conference, exploded just beside him. Khamenei was permanently injured losing some functions of his right hand, but the event helped affirm his reputation as a "living martyr" among his followers.
He was re-elected to a second term in 1985. As a close ally of Khomeini, his term in office rarely clashed with the Supreme Leader, unlike many of Iran's later presidents. When Khomeini died, Khamenei was elected as the new Supreme Leader by the Assembly of Experts on June 4, 1989. Since Khamenei was originally not considered to be as high-ranking a cleric needed to assume the office, and the new amendment to the constitution that allowed a cleric of his then status to be elected as the Supreme Leader were not put to the referendum yet, the Assembly internally titled him a temporary office holder until the new constitution became effective.
Khamenei's term as ruler has been marked by numerous clashes with reform-minded members of the Iranian parliament, who have contested many of his decrees and decisions. Many reform bills have been vetoed and many reformers has been barred from running for office by the Council of Guardians whose members are chosen directly or indirectly by Khamenei. In case of Law of The Press bill, prepared by reformist members of the parliament to ease pressure on the press, he directly ordered the speaker of parliament, Mahdi Karrubi, to remove the case from agenda. This has led some radical elements to question his divine right to rule, a previously unthinkable notion.
Khamenei, who was 14 years old during the Abadan Crisis, when the United States helped overthrow the elected prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh in order to regain control over Iranian oil, also maintained an aggressive stance towards Israel and the United States (and possibly other countries, which he calls by the general term the enemy). In recent years there have been allegations that he has been supporting a covert nuclear weapons development project in Iran, as a response to the nuclear weapons possessed by Israel and the United States.
Quotes (in progress)
On hostage-taking in Iraq:
- "We seriously suspect the agents of the Americans and Israelis in conducting such horrendous terrorist acts and cannot believe the people who kidnap Philippines nationals, for instance, or behead U.S. nationals are Muslims."
Responding to George W. Bush's 2005 State of the Union:
- "The Islamic Republic of Iran, because of defending the rights of the oppressed and confronting oppressors, is being attacked by the global tyrants. Bush is the fifth U.S. president to want to uproot the Iranian nation and the Islamic Republic. But he will be as successful as Jimmy Carter, (Ronald) Reagan, (George) Bush senior and (Bill) Clinton."
- The office of the Supreme Leader
- The office of Ayatollah Khamenei in Qom
- News site of the Institute for Preserving and Publishing Works by Ayatollah Khamenei
- BBC News' profile on Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
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