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Iranian clerics back adviser to supreme leader

ALI AKBAR VELAYATI
ALI AKBAR VELAYATI(Ebrahim Noroozi)

TEHRAN — An influential Iranian clerical body has announced its support for presidential candidate Ali Akbar Velayati in the June 14 election.

A Sunday report by Iran's semiofficial Mehr news agency quotes the Association of Teachers of Qom Seminary as saying that the association decided to support Velayati, who is the current foreign adviser for Iran's supreme leader.

The association is seen as an important reference body for many conservatives and average Iranian voters who are devout.

The decision is seen as a blow to Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, who was campaigning in a coalition with Velayati.

Velayati, who served as the country's foreign minister from 1981-1997, is one of eight candidates.

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He has vowed for better relations with the world and criticized Iran's current positions in talks with the West over its disputed nuclear program.