Thu, Jul 09, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Ahmadinejad declares new era for country

AP , TEHRAN

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sought to disperse the clouds of doubt surrounding his re-election in his first major TV address. But even as he spoke, opponents went to their rooftops shouting “death to the dictator” — a sign of continuing defiance.

In his half-hour address late on Tuesday, Ahmadinejad insisted that the June 12 elections were fair and that his government was legitimate. His staunch line gave no ground to opponents who claim the vote results were fraudulent and launched a wave of mass protests in recent weeks.

“It was the most clean and free election in the world,” Ahmadinejad said, adding that during a re-count “no fault was discovered. The whole nation understood this.”

He said the 85 percent turnout and his landslide victory based on official results had given his government a new legitimacy.

In a bid to win over skeptics, he promised to accomplish “higher and grander things” during his second term, saying his government would focus on improving the economy.

“This is a new beginning for Iran ... we have entered a new era,” he said. “We must all join hands to achieve Iran’s lofty goals.”

Ahmadinejad has the support of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and hardliners in the clerical leadership. Khamenei declared the election results valid and unleashed security forces to put down the giant street protests with a wave of arrests.

But while calm has been imposed, Iranians in many parts of the capital continued late on Tuesday what has been a nightly ritual of defiance — climbing to their rooftops to shout, “death to the dictator” and “God is great.” The shouts could be heard during Ahmadinejad’s address.

Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who claims to have won the election, is seeking to rekindle the movement after its protest momentum was shattered by the crackdown by police, Revolutionary Guards and Basij militia. Mousavi met late on Monday with the other two top pro-reform leaders, former president Mohammad Khatami and cleric Mahdi Karroubi, who also ran in the presidential election.

The three demanded that ruling clerics end the heavy “security atmosphere” imposed after the elections and free those detained in the unrest, according to Mousavi’s Web site. They warned that continuing the security crackdown “will only lead to radicalization of political activities.”

There was no sign of a let-up in the clampdown. Police say 20 people were killed in postelection violence and more than 1,000 arrested, though they say many have been released.

Authorities this week closed universities and dormitories, apparently because of Web site calls for new protests today, the anniversary of a 1999 attack by Basij and police on protesting students.

The anniversary could be a test of how willing opposition supporters are to defy tough security measures. The government has also closed government offices, citing unusually heavy dust clouds and pollution as reasons.

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