Huw Owen added: "In June 1989, the Ayatollah Khomeini died.
Misconceptions about the Ayatollah The start of the Ayatollah has often mistakenly been credited to former chairman Sam Hammam.
Hard-line clerics like Ayatollah Khamenei still believe that Iranians must purify themselves and adhere uncritically to their leaders' ideological exhortations.
Since 1989, when he succeeded Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Khamenei has not hesitated to use violence against his own citizens.
But the ayatollahs are patient, firm in their belief that Sunni Islamists in Arab lands will eventually make common cause with the Shiite revolutionaries of Iran.
Salafis - who advocate strict socio-political rules similar to the ayatollahs - took another 20 percent.
The Islamic propagation chief, Ayatollah Ahmed Jannati, told Friday prayer worshippers in Tehran that to confront what he called "American-supported Islam", a term for non-political Islam, the new Marja should have more political awareness than previous holders of this position.
That qualification fitted Ayatollah Khamenei well since he was a loyal student of Ayatollah Khomeini and served for two terms as president of the Islamic Republic under him.
The grand ayatollahs made their remarks during a meeting with members of the clerical faction of the Majlis in Qom last Thursday.
Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi said, "The issues of rising prices and economic problems are putting more and more pressure on the people day-by-day.
For their part, it is clear the Supreme Leader does not plan to allow any other senior ayatollahs fill Montazeri's shoes, nor will he tolerate an independent clergy in Qom, Isfahan or Shiraz.
However, sustained pressure on independent-minded clerics in the main religious centers could prove counterproductive for the authorities, resulting in a backlash where ayatollahs critical of the government coalesce, mobilize support against the regime, and even question the legitimacy of Ali Khamenehi as Supreme Leader.