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Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, Former Iranian President, Dies at 88

“Bani-Sadr was active in the early 1960s in the emergence of the second National Front and played a leading role in its student section,” the Iranian American historian Fakhreddin Azimi said in interview for this obituary. “After the revolution, as president in the most unfavorable circumstances, he endeavored to rely on Khomeini’s support and good will, as well as on his own popularity, to ward off or slow down the rise of clerical supremacy.”

“His efforts, given the disarray of broadly secular forces actually or potentially favorable to him and the ability of the clerics to win over Khomeini, were doomed to failure. With the loss of Khomeini’s support, his fate was sealed,” he said.

Mr. Bani-Sadr was born on March 22, 1933, into a family of pious landowners in Hamadan, Iran, said to be one of the world’s oldest towns. After studying law, theology and sociology at Tehran University, he moved to Paris, where he spent several years in the 1960s studying at the Sorbonne. He was caught up in the student movement and led protests against the regime of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.

Information on Mr. Bani-Sadr’s survivors was not immediately available.

In the 1970s, Mr. Bani-Sadr met Ayatollah Khomeini, a friend of his late father, who had also been a cleric. They were reunited in Paris after Ayatollah Khomeini was exiled there in 1978.

In one of the 20th century’s most spectacular political collapses, the shah fled Iran on Jan. 16, 1979. Ayatollah Khomeini, who had directed the revolution from exile, returned home two weeks later. In the broad-based government that the ayatollah installed, Mr. Bani-Sadr served as deputy minister of finance, then minister of finance, and finally as minister of foreign affairs.

With the ayatollah’s blessing, Mr. Bani-Sadr’s easily won the presidential election of Jan. 25, 1980. The ayatollah, however, had secured approval of a constitution giving him power to dismiss presidents at will. Over the next 18 months, he directed Mr. Bani-Sadr’s rise and fall.

In his first weeks in power, Mr. Bani-Sadr worked to bring order to the shambles that had been left by the collapse of the shah’s government. However, he was quickly was distracted by the hostage crisis.