Tue, Aug 04, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Iranian leader endorses Ahmadinejad, but rivals absent

‘COURAGEOUS’ Although the supreme leader backed the hardline president, many heavyweights, including former president Khatami, did not attend the ceremony

AFP , TEHRAN

Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei yesterday endorsed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president for a new four-year term, describing him as a “courageous” man but telling him to listen to his critics.

In a sign of the escalating feud between rival political factions over Ahmadinejad’s hotly disputed re-election, key opposition leaders were absent from the ceremony, state TV said.

Khamenei, who has given his full backing to Ahmadinejad despite a political spat, described his protege as “courageous, astute and hardworking,” and hailed his “unprecedented” victory on June 12.

He warned Ahmadinejad, however, that the “angry, wounded opposition” would continue challenging his government and told him to heed the views of his critics, in a possible reference to a row between the president and his own conservative supporters.

Ahmadinejad, whose first four years put him on a collision course with the West, again lashed out at “selfish and meddling” foreign governments over the election crisis.

“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,” the Fars news agency quoted him as saying.

“Whether you like it or not, the sun of justice has dawned upon the world and the government of justice will prevail,” he said.

The June poll set off the worst turmoil in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution, with deadly street protests, a raft of political trials and increasing divisions among the ruling elite.

Among those who did not attend yesterday’s ceremony were Ahmadinejad’s defeated rivals Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, along with powerful cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and former reformist president Mohammad Khatami.

Ahmadinejad, who is to be sworn in before parliament tomorrow, has also come under fire from his own hardline camp, which has questioned his loyalty to Khamenei in a row over a key political appointment.

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