Iran, whose supreme leader has suggested scrapping a directly elected presidency, is likely to have at least one more president after current incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mohammad Javad Larijani, a foreign affairs adviser to Khamenei, said on Tuesday, Reuters reported.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last month it would be "no problem" to substitute a parliamentary system for the presidency, in what may have been a warning to Ahmadinejad and possible successors not to overstep their powers.
He said any such change would be "probably in the distant future," but his comment has led some Iranians to think that Ahmadinejad, whose second and final term ends in June 2013, could be the country's last president.
Larijani told Reuters in an interview the idea was "still at the level of contemplation" as part of a periodic review of the constitution.
He said the proposal "needs study" and that it could take years before a law was drafted, went to parliament and was put to a referendum. Critics have said the change would weaken Iran's version of democracy and make the Islamic Republic more Islamic than republican.
"I don't think it is coming in five to six years," Larijani said, speaking in English. "At least we have (a) next president, definitely, but I don't know, perhaps one, two other presidents will come."
Ahmadinejad, who has dismissed the idea of ending the presidency as "academic," came to power in 2005, pulling Iran to the right after eight years of reformist Mohammad Khatami.
His 2009 re-election was marred by alleged vote-rigging and plunged Iran into its worst turmoil since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Iran's conservative-dominated parliament has given him a hard time in the past two years, rejecting many of his nominees for key ministries and obstructing proposed government bills.
Larijani, a brother of Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, rejected suggestions of a major dispute between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei.
"I don't think this is true," he said, adding that "there may be a difference of opinion on this or that, this is natural."
Larijani, who is head of Iran's High Council for Human Rights, is visiting New York ahead of a planned vote by a U.N. General Assembly committee on a resolution condemning the human rights situation in Iran.