Iran's former president Ahmadinejad appointed to top political advisory council

TEHERAN (AFP) - Iran's supreme leader on Monday appointed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the Expediency Council, the country's top political arbitration body headed by an avid critic of the outgoing president.

In announcing the appointment, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praised Mr Ahmadinejad's "worthy efforts" as president.

"Considering the profuse experience you gained during eight years of worthy efforts, I appoint you as a member of the Expediency Council," read a statement posted on Mr Khamenei's website.

The council is headed by ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani who repeatedly criticised Mr Ahmadinejad during his turbulent eight-year presidency for his controversial political and economic policies.

It is dominated by conservatives and acts as an advisory body for Mr Khamenei, the supreme leader of the Islamic republic who has final say on all key policies, including nuclear talks and foreign policy.

Mr Ahmadinejad vacated office on Saturday after two turbulent four-year terms, leaving Iran divided domestically, isolated internationally and struggling economically.

He was succeeded by moderate cleric Hassan Rowhani, who has promised to engage constructively with world powers over Iran's contentious nuclear drive and to stave up the shrinking economy.

In the last two years of his presidency, Mr Ahmadinejad fell from grace with Mr Khamenei following a public power struggle, and during his tenure he was also involved in high-profile feuds with parliament speaker Ali Larijani and judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani.

The Expediency Council comprises high-ranking religious and political figures and former government officials.

It is also tasked with resolving legislative issues between the parliament and the Guardians Council, which interprets the constitution.