CENTRAL BANK GOVERNOR, MOHSEN NOORBAKHSH DIED

TEHRAN 23 Mar. (IPS) Mohsen Noorbakhsh, 59, the Governor of the Central Bank of Iran died of heart attack in the early hours of Sunday, the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported.

His doctor told IRNA that Noorbakhsh felt heart pain at 02:00 Sunday and was rushed to hospital in Chaloos, on the Caspian Sea, where the official is thought to have been spending the New Iranian Year holiday.

"Despite all the efforts made by the hospital staff, the treatment did not prove effective and Noorbakhsh passed away before 04:00 and his body was transferred to Tehran", Dr. Homayoon Mehran said, explaining that Mr. Noorbakhsh suffered from cardiac rheumatism since his childhood and went through an operation on his heart 18 years ago outside the country.

Both Ayatollah Khameneh'i, the leader of the Islamic Republic and President Mohammad Khatami, in a condolence message, praised Noorbakhsh as a "very sincere, intelligent and capable serviceman" and described his death as a "great loss".

The Council of Ministers said Noorbakhsh played a "key role in putting shape into the monetary policies of the country by unifying the Iranian currency and establishing a reserve fund (for the surplus oil revenues) as well as (helping with the) eye-catching rise of the Central Bank's reserves".

Noorbakhsh, who held a Ph.D in economics from California State University, was a key architect of the Iranian economy after the destructive Iraqi imposed-war of 1980-1988. He also advocated a liberal economy.

He first came into office shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution as the deputy Finance Minister until 1981 after his bid for Finance Minister was rejected by then president Abolhassan Banisadr who defected later.

Noorbakhsh was later appointed as the governor of the CBI until 1986 during the government of then Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Moussavi.

In 1988, Noorbakhsh was elected as a deputy to Majles from Tehran before becoming Finance Minister in 1994 under the presidency of the former president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, keeping the post until 1995.

After being refused confidence by the Majles, Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani appointed him as his economic right hand and his deputy, before being again appointed as the Governor of the Central Bank, a post he kept after the victory of Mr. Khatami in 1997 until his death and despite bitter dispute with the current Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Tahmasb Mazaheri. ENDS MOHSEN NOORBAKHSH DIED 23303