x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Ahmadinejad sworn in as Iranian president

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is sworn in for a second term in office and immediately appeals for national unity.

TEHRAN // Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was sworn in today for a second term in office as president of Iran, appealing for national unity and denouncing foreign interference in his inauguration speech before parliament. Mr Ahmadinejad took the oath and pledged to protect the constitution but his inauguration speech was unusually soft-toned for the bellicose Iranian leader. He focused on foreign policy, and said he would make it "stronger and with more effective new plans".

"I hereby swear by the almighty God to protect the system of the Islamic Revolution and the constitution, I will spare no effort to safeguard the frontiers of Iran," Mr Ahmadinejad said. He urged for unity and said: "We should join hands as we move forward to fulfil our goals." Mr Ahmadinejad did not directly address the massive street demonstrations against his proclaimed election victory, but said his government would "resist any violation of law and interference".

"We will not remain silent, we will not tolerate disrespect, interference and insults," he said. He made only a vague reference to the West and the US. "Some countries have not recognised the elections or extended their congratulations. They do not respect the rights of other nations, yet they recognise themselves as the yardstick for democracy," he said. Top officials and clerics attended the ceremony, which was boycotted by opposition leaders and moderate lawmakers.

Iran's opposition has claimed Mr Ahmadinejad stole the vote in the June 12 presidential elections and there have been mass street protests that have shaken the country's religious leadership. At least 30 demonstrators have been killed in the uprising, according to the authorities. Hundreds of policemen were deployed around the parliament today, while a subway station nearby was closed to the public.

Opposition groups had called protesters again to the streets to coincide with the inauguration, with the calls posted on reformist websites and blogs - including some linked to opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi - indicating the protesters' determination to continue confronting the establishment. The official IRNA news agency said there was no "disturbance of the peace" on major streets and roundabouts in the Iranian capital during the inauguration but eyewitnesses said at least 10 people were detained by police.

Security troops also dispersed hundreds of protesters who chanted "Death to the Dictator" in nearby streets, according to the eyewitnesses. Authorities have banned media from covering the street protests, forcing them to rely on eyewitness accounts. The eyewitnesses said the detained included protesters who wore black T-shirts in a sign of grief over Mr Ahmadinejad's inauguration and a young man in green trousers - the color of Mousavi's movement - along with a middle-aged woman carrying a royalist banner in support of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi who was toppled in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

*AP