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Ahmadinejad reelection campaign begins with invective

Latest update : 2009-06-10

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is seeking a second term in the June 12 elections, launched his campaign with a speech before thousands in which he boasted of Iran's nuclear prowess, and attacked Israel and the West.

AFP - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad kicked off a combative reelection campaign on Friday by firing fresh verbal salvos at the West, Israel and reformists in his own country.

Ahmadinejad, who is seeking a second term in the June 12 election, stirred thousands of supporters at a packed indoor stadium in Tehran by touting Iran's nuclear technology gains and vowing to keep up his aggressive anti-West stance.

"The Iranian nation will not accept domination from oppressive powers," said Ahmadinejad, wearing his trademark light-coloured jacket and dark trousers as young men and women chanted "Ahmadi! Ahmadi!"

"We have to build an Iran that will have a role in directing the future of the world," he said as the crowd screamed "Ahmadi, the hero who supports the poor, who is the pride of the young!"

Ahmadinejad said he had deflected pressures from the West and from groups inside Iran to abandon the controversial nuclear programme during his current four-year term.

"We have buried the sanctions in the cemetery of history," he said, referring to the three sets of UN sanctions imposed against the Islamic republic for not halting its uranium enrichment programme.

"Only eight or nine countries can enrich uranium, and we are one of them," he said.

He criticised the previous government of reformist president Mohammad Khatami, saying its "policy of detente ... led to closure of nuclear facilities" in Iran.

Despite the simmering heat, the passionate, jubilant crowd cheered as Ahmadinejad spoke. Young men beat their chests and chanted, while women, dressed in black chadors, waved his pictures, posters and Iranian flags.

"Iranians will die but not accept dishonour," shouted the crowd.

Referring to Israel, Ahmadinejad said the nation must remember the way the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic revolution, talked of enemies.

"They are like dogs. If you attack them, they retreat; if you retreat they attack," Ahmadinejad recalled Khomeini as saying.

The president has enraged the international community with his sustained anti-Israel stance, saying the country is doomed to be "wiped off the map" and that the Holocaust was a "myth".

His anti-Israel salvo triggered a zealous reaction from the crowd, which screamed "Ahmadinejad, who lives a simple life, will destroy the Zionists!"

Ahmadinejad said his coming to power in 2005 was a sign that people wanted the country to follow the path of the Islamic revolution that toppled the US-backed shah in 1979.

He spoke of a "feeling that the nation had gone away from the principles of the revolution" during the previous election.

"But you had a clear view of the situation and with your slogan of 'we can' you made a move to change the situation," Ahmadinejad said of his election victory four years ago.

Former president and influential cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani earlier on Friday called for a massive turnout on June 12.

"All of us agree that it is in the interest of the system to have an election with massive turnout," he told Tehran's Friday prayer worshippers in a speech broadcast live on state radio.

Rafsanjani, who heads the legislative arbitration body, the Expediency Council, said Iran's 46.2 million eligible voters must "harvest" the opportunity to elect the new president.

"The day after the poll, when the participation figure is announced, (if it is) more than 70 or 80 percent turnout our system's credibility will rise several rungs in the world," the cleric said.

Apart from Ahmadinejad, Iran's electoral watchdog, the Guardians Council, has cleared former Revolutionary Guards chief Mohsen Rezai, former premier Mir Hossein Mousavi and ex-parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi to stand in the polls.

Date created : 2009-05-23