Mohammed Ali Rajai, who as a young man was an active Marxist, became the standard-bearer of the hard-line fundamentalist Islamic clerics who now control Iran.

By the middle of this year, Rajai was the apparent winner of a bitter power struggle with former president Abol Hassan Bani-Sadr, after Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini fired Bani-Sadr and Rajai was elected to replace him. The two powerful leaders had quarreled over religious control of the government and the pact Rajai helped negotiate with the United States for the release of 52 American hostages.

It was this discord over the hostage agreement that brought the more serious political infighting into the open. Bani-Sadr argued that the clergy-dominated government was working to exclude him from political decisions. Khomeini finally sided with Rajai and the Islamic clergy.

At the beginning of this month, Rajai, 47, became president of Iran. Mohammed Javad Bahonar, with whom he had worked for nearly two decades, became his prime minister.

Rajai was born in the town of Qazvin near Tehran. As a youth he studied mathematics and statistics, yet as prime minister he closed schools and universities and purges professors, teachers and students in a campaign against Western influence in Iran.

In 1962, Rajai and Bahonar set up an underground political group opposing the shah.

During the 1970s, Rajai worked with the Marxist Mujaheddin-e-Khalq, now the chief source of opposition to Iran's government. He was jailed by SAVAK, the shah's secret police, for political activities from 1973 to 1975.

After the revolution in February 1979, Rajai became minister of education. In September 1980, Rajai became prime minister. Six months later he appointed Bahonar as the new minister of education.