Page last updated at 21:52 GMT, Saturday, 22 August 2009 22:52 UK

Rafsanjani in 'conciliatory' move

Mr Rafsanjani delivers a sermon at Tehran University 17 July
The influential former leader has defied calls to back the disputed election

Former President Ali Akbar Rafsanjani has urged Iran's political factions to follow orders from the supreme leader, in an apparent conciliatory move.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has endorsed the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June, but Mr Rafsanjani has backed the opposition.

Correspondents say his statement seems to contradict a speech last month when he said the country was in crisis.

Official news agency Irna said he has also called for action to foster unity.

At least 4,000 people were arrested in protests following last month's election, alleging the result was rigged. Hundreds still remain in jail.

'Creating unity'

"[Mr Rafsanjani] referred to the observance of the guidelines set by the supreme leader and confronting lawbreakers as a necessity under the present conditions," Irna reported after a meeting of Iran's Expediency Council, the country's top political arbitration body, which he chairs.

Irna said he also called for "sympathy between officials and the public as a necessity for the country's passage from the current domestic problems and for confronting the problems created by foreigners".

He also reportedly reiterated a call to politicians and the media to "avoid stirring schisms... and take steps toward the creation of unity".

The comments appeared to be in contrast with a hard-hitting sermon he delivered on 17 July, when he declared the Islamic Republic to be in crisis and demanded an end to the arrests of moderates following the election.

Shortly after that sermon, clerics had called on Mr Rafsanjani to show more support for Ayatollah Khamenei.

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