A member of the Assembly of Experts (AE) has categorically denied that the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei demanded to pick his successor within three years.
The AE is the deliberative body empowered to appoint and dismiss the Supreme Leader. However, all directly elected members of the AE must be first approved by the supreme leader before gaining their seats.
The assembly, chaired by the 91-year-old cleric, Ahmad Jannati, consists of 88 members who are elected from lists of vetted candidates by direct public vote for eight-year terms. The last AE election was held in 2016.
Hardline 82-year old member of the assembly Ayatollah Mohsen Mojtahed Shabestari has insisted that the question of Khamenei's successor has never been debated at the assembly.
Earlier, unconfirmed reports had mentioned the mid-ranking clergies, Ebrahim Raeisi, and Ahmad Khatami as candidates to replace the 79-year-old Ali Khamenei as the Supreme Leader.
Khamenei has been at the helm of the Islamic Republic since June 4, 1989.
Speaking to the government's official news agency (IRNA), Mojtahed Shabestari categorically dismissed Raeisi and Khatami as candidates for replacing Khamenei, insisting that the question of the Supreme Leader's successor has never been debated at the AE.
Ebrahim Raeisi is currently the custodian of a religious financial empire in Iran's second largest city, Mashhad, in the northeast of the country. The 58-year-old Raeisi ran against President Hassan Rouhani, in 2013 presidential election, but lost, despite being supported by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and other conservative allies of the Supreme Leader.
Ahmad Khatami, 58, another cleric, is an influential member of the AE, and Tehran's Friday Prayer Imam, directly appointed by Khamenei.
Since Khamenei has undergone prostate and gall bladder surgeries in recent years, speculation about his successor has gained momentum.
Earlier, a Telegram Channel, presented as the Tehran Times page, had cited the city of Isfahan's conservative Friday Prayer Imam, and AE member, 74-year-old Yousef Tabatabeinejad as saying, "The Supreme Leader has asked the AE to nominate his successor within three years”.
Tabatabeinejad was quoted as saying the AE has nominated nine of its member to form a "Leadership Council", according to the Tehran Times Telegram Channel, on February 10.
However, hours later, the office of Isfahan's Friday Prayer Imam dismissed the news as unfounded, not true, and cooked up by "foreign elements".
Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, the spokesman of the Assembly of Experts (AE) and Tehran's interim Friday Prayer leader, had also said on January 26 that the media had misconstrued his comments from two years earlier about a confidential committee being formed to pick the future leader.
In his latest interview with ISNA, Khatami said, "Thank God that our Supreme Leader is in the most buoyant condition, regularly going for walks and working out. Naturally, though, one should think about the ruling system's future, as well."
As a member of the AE's, Khatami also said that no one is being considered to replace Khamenei.