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Iran”s president-elect expected to take on West | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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AP photo

AP photo

AP photo

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran”s conservative press hailed president-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday as a man who could take on the United States and uphold the moral principles of the Islamic revolution.

The hardline conservative mayor of Tehran defeated moderate cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in a landslide election win, but has sparked concerns that his brand of conservatism will enflame a row over Iran”s atomic program.

Ahmadinejad has struck a defiant stance on Iran”s nuclear fuel program, that Washington argues is needed for atomic weapons, saying Tehran could never surrender its technology.

The conservative Kayhan newspaper wrote Ahmadinejad”s win would scupper U.S. attempts to flex its muscles in the Middle East under what it called a smokescreen of spreading democracy.

&#34The recent election and the people”s leaning toward a devout man … means America”s plot of democratisation in the region has backfired,&#34 wrote editor Hossein Shariatmadari.

The Tehran Times said the new president would put Islamic principles back at the center of policy making.

&#34The election signifies a return to the idealistic principles that have been forgotten over the past few years,&#34 read an editorial in the conservative newspaper.

Ahmadinejad has already called for the nation to unite behind him in a spirit of solidarity, saying: &#34We have to forget all our rivalries and turn them into friendships.&#34

Major policy decisions on the nuclear program, which Tehran denies is a ploy to get atomic weapons, are ultimately taken by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said his over-arching policy was unlikely to change and a new president would not be able to strike a harder line independently in nuclear negotiations with the European Union.

Ahmadinejad, 48, a former special forces officer of the hardline Revolutionary Guards is due to give his first press conference since the election on Sunday.

He takes office in August.

Reformists admitted they had only themselves to blame for Ahmadinejad”s win as they had achieved so little in eight years of President Mohammad Khatami”s government.

&#34The vote for Ahmadinejad was a vote against reformist inefficiency,&#34 wrote Mohammad Qouchani, editor of the liberal Sharq daily.

Ahmadinejad won the backing of the religious poor to defeat Rafsanjani, who was supported by pro-reform parties and wealthy Iranians fearful of a hardline monopoly on power in the Islamic state.

Despite his call for national unity in the country of 68 million people, commentators expect Ahmadinejad will purge many ministries after top officials backed his opponent.

In particular, he has described the country”s oil ministry, source of 80 percent of export earnings, as being in the thrall of mafias and needing more transparency. Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh openly backed Ahmadinejad”s election rival.

Ahmadinejad”s win was the latest by a new breed of hardline politicians, many of them former Revolutionary Guardsmen, who won local council and parliamentary elections in 2003 and 2004 amid widespread discontentment with the slow pace of reform.

State media reported that Ahmadinejad won 62 percent of the 30 million votes cast, defying forecasts of a tight race. The figures indicated a 60 percent turnout from the 46.7 million eligible voters.

Iran's president-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (C) prays at the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (R)

Iran’s president-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (C) prays at the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (R)

Iranian President-elect Mahmood Ahmadinejad greets Iranians (AFP)

Iranian President-elect Mahmood Ahmadinejad greets Iranians (AFP)