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Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, head of Iran's Assembly of Experts, a body of 86 senior clerics charged with monitoring Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and choosing his successor, delivers a speech during a session of the assembly, in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2007. Former president Hashemi Rafsanjani was picked Tuesday as head of the powerful clerical body empowered with choosing or dismissing Iran's supreme leader, state-run television reported. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani died after suffering a heart attack


Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani died Sunday after suffering a heart attack, state-run media reported. He was 82. 

Rafsanjani was an influential political figure in Iran and earned the nickname Akbar Shah, or Great King, for his often cunning political and business moves. 

He served two terms as president, which spanned from 1989 to 1997. Throughout his career, Rafsanjani was seen as the person who could help achieve better relations with the West, CNN reports. 

Rafsanjani was also a supporter of the current Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. After Rouhani was elected in 2013, Rafsanjani took on a sort of "insider role," pushing for direct nuclear talks between the United States and Iran. 

Ultimately, Iran agreed to limit its nuclear enrichment in exchange for world powers lifting some economic sanctions. 

After the news of Rafsanjani's death circulated, Rouhani praised the former president.

"The spirit of the giant of the revolution and politics, the symbol of patience and resilience has soared to the skies," he tweeted.

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, also offered up condolences. 

"With the passing of Hashemi, there is no other person I know of with whom I share the long and common experiences of the highs and lows of these historic times," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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