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Iran's controversial new president

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Iran's controversial new president


Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s man-in-the-street image helped him to a surprise victory in Iran’s presidential race.

While critics warned that electing a former revolutionary guard would mean an end to Iran’s tentative reform initiatives, voters were more interested in his pledges to help the poor and fight corruption. On the campaign trail he often evoked his days as Tehran’s mayor. The public remember a city chief who took a modest salary and approved interest-free loans for young newly-weds. But he also introduced cultural restrictions, wanted to bury Iran’s war dead in public squares and banned an advert involving the footballer, David Beckham. It is measures like these that earn him the label ultra-conservative, although he says he rejects all forms of extremism and insists his will be a moderate government. Reformists are worried and the atmosphere is tense. On Tuesday, a judge renowned for jailing dissidents was assassinated in front of Tehran’s courthouse. Hassan Moghaddas put Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi behind bars. On the foreign policy front, Ahmadinejad takes over in the middle of a nuclear row with the West – in particular Iran’s arch foe, the United States. The day after his election in June, political analyst Mahmoud Alinejad said: “I don’t think there will be immediate changes to nuclear policy,” he said. “He has made it clear that he will not be taking a hostile position toward international relations. But he has said he wants to see the foreign policy of Iran be more pro-active, rather than passive.” In other words, Iran will not be told what to do, especially by the US. The new president accuses Washington of running a smear campaign against him. Relations between the two countries have not recovered from the American embassy siege in 1979. Some former hostages say Ahmadinejad was involved. The White House is still investigating the claims. Rumours about what Ahmadinejad has done or intends to do abound. As for the president, he says he will express himself through actions, not words.
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