Iran succession talk lingers with an ageing leader and an embattled president

A senior official dismissed reports of Khamenei's health but questions over the future are harder to shake off

epa07282337 A handout photo made available by Iran's Presidential Office shows Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivering an address in the city of Gonbad-e Kavous, Golestan province, north-eastern Iran, 14 January 2019. Media quoted Rouhani as saying that an Iranian-made satellite named 'Payam' will be put into orbit in the near future.  EPA/IRANIAN PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE HANDOUT  HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES
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A senior Iranian official has said that no candidate has been agreed upon to succeed Iran’s powerful but ageing supreme leader Ali Khamenei as talk turns to the future.

Ahmed Khatami denied reports that Mr Khamenei is unwell and added that claims the Assembly of Experts were rushing to shortlist nominees to replace the man who has ruled the country for 30 years were untrue, the semi-official Iranian Student News Agency reported.

The Assembly of Experts is the body tasked with overseeing the performance of the supreme leader and officially has the power to dismiss or designate people to the country’s top post. However, having never challenged either of the country’s two supreme leaders many believe it has become a ceremonial body with no teeth.

There had been talk that Iran's President Hassan Rouhani might succeed Mr Khamenei, but he looks increasingly likely to follow the path of his two predecessors in the presidency, Mohammad Khatami and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who have been effectively silenced by the establishment.

Mr Rouhani is increasingly beset on all sides by the reformist streak that once championed him and propelled him to the presidency as well as by the conservative arm who oppose his determination to negotiate with the West over sanctions. The main criticisms of a president who ran on a platform of economic modernisation and an opening up of society have been the tumbling value of the rial, mounting economic strain and slow or stagnant social reform.

The economic situation has, in part, been precipitated by the US imposing sanctions on Iran after withdrawing from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreed by western powers and Iran over its nuclear enrichment programme.

However, he still has backers in parliament, including the powerful speaker, despite being called to appear on Tuesday to answer questions over the economy. While parliament has the power to strip Mr Rouhani of his position, he is unlikely to be impeached if for no other reason than that Mr Khamenei – a regularly outspoken critic – has said the president should see out his term until 2021.But throughout the challenges and mounting anger against Preisdent Rouhani, talk of who will replace the 79-year-old supreme leader have simmered. As well as Mr Rouhani, Mr Khamenei’s son Mojtaba was tipped as a successor. Until his death last month, the head of the Expediency Council – a semi-advisory body to the supreme leader – Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi was also a candidate along with judicial head Sadeq Larijani.