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Rift Reported Between Qom Clerics, Iranian President

Qom is Iran's holiest city

Qom is Iran's holiest city

A reformist Iranian cleric close to the religious establishment in the holy city of Qom says several of the city's top clerics refused to meet Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad during a recent visit, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Cleric and journalist Mohammad Javad Akbarin spoke on April 8 to Radio Farda about Ahmadinejad's March 18 visit to Qom.

Akbarin said only one top cleric agreed to meet Ahmadinejad. "As I was informed, that top cleric spent most of the meeting criticizing Ahmadinejad," Akbarin said.

Akbarin suggested that the refusal by some ayatollahs to meet Ahmadinejad demonstrates a rift between religious authorities and the government. It may create difficulties for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who wants to restore good relations between the clerics and the president.

Akbarin believes the clerics are sending a message to Ahmadinejad. "Instead of trying to convince the religious elements in society that the government and grand ayatollahs are on good terms, you must try to solve the grave problems that exist in Iranian politics, the economy, and the culture," he said.