Iran's supreme leader since 1989.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei became Iran's supreme leader in 1989 as the country faced the huge task of recovering from the eight-year Iraq war with little assistance from an outside world that had generally backed Baghdad.
The supreme leader has almost unassailable powers under Iran's Islamic constitution. Among his direct appointments are the heads of the armed forces and the top posts in the state media. His office has a leading government role with representatives in every state institution, and he has the right to declare war or peace.
In March 2005, he gave public backing to possible talks with the US about Iraq, despite strong objections from some within, a move that led to Iran's stance that it will negotiate over the nuclear programme with the US, alongside other leading powers, as long as Iran's 'rights' are respected.
Born to a clerical family in the holy city of Mashhad, Ali Khamenei studied at seminaries in Najaf and Qom, becoming active in the opposition to the Shah. After the revolution, he became a parliamentary deputy and was in 1981 elected president.
Compiled by:M. Nauman Khan