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A senior Iranian cleric accused President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of "heresy" on Friday by saying in his tribute to late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez that he would be resurrected with Jesus Christ.
"Those comments on Chavez's return with Christ were heresy," Ayatollah Ahmad Janati, the hardline chief of the influential Guardians Council, told worshippers at Friday prayers in Tehran.
Janati was referring to comments by Ahmadinejad on March 6 in which he called Chavez a "martyr" who would "return, along with the righteous Jesus and the perfect human."
The last was an allusion to Shiite Islam's 12th imam that Iran's majority faith believes will return with Christ to bring peace and justice to the world.
Janati said Iran's clergy had been "upset" by the remarks.
"Should people say whatever comes to mind? I wish (Ahmadinejad) had spent a few days in a seminary before discussing such issues," he said.
"Chavez was a populist and anti-American. His political agenda was completely acceptable. But he was not a Muslim," Janati added.
Janati's Guardians Council is charged with overseeing elections and interpreting the constitution.
Iran has scheduled a presidential election for June 14 to find a replacement for Ahmadinejad, whose disputed re-election in 2009 sparked street protests and a deadly crackdown by the regime in response.
Iran and Venezuela have both pursued strongly anti-American foreign policies and have signed billions of dollars in investment agreements in recent years.
Chavez made 13 visits to Iran between 1999 and his death last week, while Ahmadinejad has made six trips to Venezuela since 2005.