Head of Iran's top clerical body dies

Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani attends a session of the Assembly of Experts -- the body that selects the supreme leader and supervises his activities -- in Tehran, on September 3, 2013 (AFP Photo/Behrouz Mehri)

Tehran (AFP) - The chairman of Iran's Assembly of Experts, the clerics who appoint and can dismiss the country's supreme leader, has died, four months after suffering a heart attack, state media reported Tuesday.

Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, 83, died of heart failure, the official IRNA news agency said, opening up a vacancy near the top of Iran's power structure.

President Hassan Rouhani announced two days of mourning for Kani, a former acting prime minister and interior minister who took on the influential position in March 2011.

Comprised of 86 religious figures elected by the people, the Assembly of Experts chooses the supreme leader and monitors his actions.

However, Kani was absent from its annual conference last month, having fallen into a coma following his heart attack on June 4.

Kani was also the dean of Imam Sadegh University, a Tehran school of learning seen as a training ground for future leaders, and his body has been taken there so that students can pay their respects.

The Assembly of Experts grants Iran's supreme leader, currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an indefinite term but it retains the power to sack him, if it sees fit.