Hard-line cleric becomes speaker of Assembly of Expert

A hard-line Iranian cleric has become the speaker of the Assembly of Experts, a clerical body that is mainly tasked with selecting the country's supreme leader.

The official IRNA news agency says the 89-year-old Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati won 51 votes in the 88-seat Assembly on Tuesday. He will serve as speaker for two years.

His appointment signals that despite recent gains by Iranian moderates, hard-liners remain a prominent force within the Islamic Republic's politics. Moderate candidates and supporters of President Hassan Rouhani secured majorities in February elections bot for the parliament and for the more conservative Assembly of Experts.

Jannati is also secretary of Iran's powerful constitutional watchdog, which is in charge of vetting candidates for the Assembly of Experts, as well as those running in parliamentary and presidential elections.