A U.S. State Department official on Sunday described deceased Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani a “prominent figure” throughout the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Reuters reported.
“We send our condolences to his family and loved ones,” the official said in a statement.
Head of Iran’s Expediency Council and two-time president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani passed away at the age of 82 at a hospital in Tehran on Sunday.
In a statement, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Rafsanjani an “old friend and comrade” and said his loss is “difficult and life-decreasing.”
“The different opinions and interpretations at time in this long period could never entirely break up the friendship” between us, Ayatollah Khamenei said.
The government announced three days of mourning, and a funeral was expected to be held on Tuesday for Rafsanjani, who was president from 1989 to 1997.
Rafsanjani served as president from 1989 to 1997, during a period of significant changes in Iran. At the time, the country was struggling to rebuild its economy after a devastating 1980s war with Iraq.
He was also elected as head of Iran’s parliament in 1980 and served until 1989, when he was elected for the first of two four-year terms as president.
Rafsanjani championed improved relations with Persian Gulf Arab states, was known to have good ties with senior Saudi officials and was seen as a key figure who could have resolved rising tensions between the regional rivals in coming years.
He was born in 1934 in the village of Bahraman in southeastern Iran’s pistachio-growing region of Rafsanjan. He is survived by his wife, Effat Marashi, and five children.
Rafsanjani advocated progressive economic policies, encouraging private businesses and improving infrastructure. His own business holdings were reported to be widespread.
Since the 2013 presidential election, Rafsanjani has fully backed Rouhani. Mr Rafsanjani was also a staunch supporter of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
A US official close to the Iranian nuclear talks said Rafsanjani’s support for the deal was crucial. “If he hadn’t supported it … it would not have gone forward,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly.
In a tweet, the president Rouhani said: “The soul of the great man of the Revolution, symbol of patience and resistance, has gone to Heaven.”
On Sunday night, Rouhani and others visited the hospital to see Rafsanjani one final time before his body was taken to a mosque ahead of burial.
Rafsanjani’s body was taken to Jamaran prayer hall, the famous residence of the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Rohullah Khomeini, where many politicians and religious figures gathered to pay their last respects.
A crowd also gathered outside the hospital in northern Tehran where Rafsanjani was first taken.
“Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani was taken to hospital after a heart attack and more than an hour long efforts by doctors to revive him were not successful,” deputy health minister Mohammad Aghajani was quoted as saying by state broadcaster IRIB.
Bahrain, Kuwait and UAE officials, among others, voiced condolences on Twitter over Rafsanjani’s death.
Reuters, BBC and Latimes contributed to this report