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Iran's leader endorses Ahmadinejad presidency

Iran's Ahmadinejad to be sworn in amid political turmoil

Iran's supreme leader formally endorsed the second term presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday after a disputed election that leading reformists say was rigged to ensure the incumbent's victory.

"The official ceremony was held and Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) approved Mr. Ahmadinejad's presidency," the Arabic language al-Alam state television said after the Iranian auithorities banned the live airing of the ceremony.

Khamenei has endorsed the June 12 election result and demanded an end to protests during which at least 20 people were killed. He said that Ahmadinejad's election victory reflected the people's support for a fight against arrogance and for justice, after formally confirming his second term in office.

On his part, Ahmadinejad accused foreign governments of trying to cause trouble during the June election which returned him to power, the Fars news agency reported.

"I tell those few selfish and meddling governments that you were cruel during this election towards our people and you used your financial and political abilities inappropriately," Fars quoted Ahmadinejad as saying after the ceremony.

"You do not want a new model of divine democracy rising in the world. You wanted to divert global opinion from the collapse of capitalism, so you insulted the Iranian people."

I tell those few selfish and meddling governments that you were cruel during this election towards our people and you used your financial and political abilities inappropriately

Iranian re-elected president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Absence of opposition

Iranian opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi and powerful cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani were absent from Monday's ceremony, Al-Alam reported.

Mousavi and Karoubi say the next government will be illegitimate. Iranian officials deny any fraud in the election, in which the hardline Ahmadinejad was declared to have won 63 percent of 40 million votes cast, against 34 percent for Mousavi.

Ahmadinejad will be sworn in by parliament on Wednesday.

He then has two weeks to submit his cabinet list to the mostly conservative parliament, which may object if he names only members of his inner circle.

Wednesday's ceremony comes as Iran grapples with its worst turbulence since the 1979 Islamic revolution, with deadly street protests, a raft of political trials and an escalating feud between rival factions.

Ahmadinejad, 52, hailed as a "man of the people" by Iran's poor but seen as a bogeyman by the West, is himself under fire from his own hardline camp, which questions his loyalty to Khamenei.

The official ceremony was held and Supreme Leader approved Mr. Ahmadinejad's presidency

Al-Alam TV

Political unrest

The announcement of Ahmadinejad's landslide victory in the June 12 presidential vote was met with an outpouring of anger from opposition supporters, who claim their votes were stolen.

Massive street protests that erupted in the wake of the announcement left at least 30 people dead and saw several thousand protesters rounded up, among them prominent pro-reform figures and journalists.

Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who stood against Ahmadinejad in the election, have accused the authorities of massive vote rigging and have branded Ahmadinejad's presidency as illegitimate, in flagrant defiance of Khamenei.

For many Iranians, the blacksmith's son who first rose to the presidency in 2005 is seen as a devout and hardworking man of the people, a reputation he built with huge spending programs and tours of the rural heartland during his first four-year term.

The firebrand orator's hectic speaking schedules earned him the nickname "Marco Polo" from one cleric. His rivals however term him a "loose cannon" for his bombastic rhetoric.

Ahmadinejad's repeated diatribes against Israel and the Holocaust earned him notoriety in the West and even drew criticism from some fellow conservatives at home for damaging Iran's international standing.

He hit the headlines soon after his first upset election victory four years ago by saying Israel was doomed to be "wiped off the map" and that the Holocaust was a "myth."

Trial of rioters

Ahmadinejad's re-election has also created a rift among the country's clergy, with several senior clerics siding with the opposition and condemning the post-election violence and the regime's treatment of its critics.

The authorities have hit back with a heavy-handed crackdown on protesters, whom they accuse of seeking to overthrow the regime.

On Saturday, around 100 moderates and reformists were put on trial in a revolutionary court in Tehran, a move slammed by opposition leaders but welcomed by hardliners. Another 10 went on trial on Sunday.

In a keynote speech on June 19 after a week of bitter protests, Khamenei strongly backed Ahmadinejad and dismissed the allegations of vote rigging.

The all-powerful leader has also accused Western governments, Britain in particular, of instigating the post-election unrest.

London dismissed the allegation and tension between the two countries deepened after Iran detained nine local British embassy staffers on accusations of provoking riots. All have since been released.

Although key policy issues are decided by Khamenei, critics point the finger of blame directly at Ahmadinejad for three sets of United Nations Security Council sanctions against Iran over its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment.

Controversial VP

Opponents also accuse Ahmadinejad, who enjoyed windfall oil revenues in his first term, of mismanaging the economy, stoking inflation, wasting resources and manipulating statistics to cover his failures.

Ahmadinejad, who enjoyed Khamenei's support throughout his first term, crossed swords with the supreme leader after he appointed a controversial aide as his first vice president.

Khamenei intervened and ordered the sacking of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, an outspoken politician who last year enraged hardliners by saying Iran was a friend of Israeli people.

The fact that it took Ahmadinejad a week to finally carry out Khamanei's order angered the conservative wing of the regime, who warned him to obey the supreme leader.

The hardline camp was further irked when Ahmadinejad sacked intelligence minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie following a reported "quarrel" over Rahim Mashaie's appointment.

Ahmadinejad has denied any rift with Khamenei and has characterized his relationship with the supreme leader as that of "father and son."

Ties with U.S.

Iran's crackdown on protesters drew international condemnation, including from arch-foe the United States.

After three decades of severed diplomatic ties, Washington earlier this year made overtures to Tehran, offering talks over their long-standing disputes, including the nuclear issue.

Iran has yet to respond to the offer but has ruled out negotiations over the nuclear program, insisting the atomic work is for solely peaceful ends.

Should Ahmadinejad stick to his guns on the nuclear program, his second term is likely to be characterized by greater tension with the West, which has warned of even tougher sanctions.

Iran's stance towards close U.S. ally Israel is also likely to harden further with Ahmadinejad -- who has repeatedly said the Jewish state is doomed to disappear -- at the helm for a further four years.