Tehran university at centre of Iranian power struggle
Guardian / Peter Beaumont

Iran's largest private university has become the focus of a bitter political battle for control between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his most powerful rival, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Mirroring intense factional conflicts since last year's contested elections, rival factions are in a power struggle for Azad Islamic University in Tehran, which has hundreds of campuses across Iran and assets worth tens of billions of dollars.

The university, one of the world's largest – with more than 1.5 million students and staff – is closely linked to Rafsanjani, a former president and self-described "pragmatic conservative" who is head of the powerful Assembly of Experts. Rafsanjani was one of the founders of the university in 1982. Pro-regime critics have accused him of packing the university management with allies.

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