x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Ayatollah Khamenei endorses Ahmadinejad

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei formally endorses hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president for a new four-year term.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has formally endorsed hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president for a new four-year term amid intense political turmoil in the Islamic republic. But in a sign of the escalating feud between rival political factions over Mr Ahmadinejad's hotly disputed re-election, opposition leaders were absent from the ceremony, state-owned Al-Alam television said. "The supreme leader appointed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the president of the Islamic Republic for a second term," the Arabic-language channel said.

"Iranian people have voted in favour of a fight against arrogance, to confront destitution and spread justice," it quoted Ayatollah Khamenei as saying. But among those who did not attend were Mr Ahmadinejad's defeated rivals Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, powerful cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and former reformist president Mohammad Khatami, it said. Iran is grappling with its worst turbulence since the 1979 Islamic revolution, with deadly street protests, a raft of political trials and increasing divisions among the ruling elite.

Mr Ahmadinejad, 52, is due to be sworn in before parliament on Wednesday following his June 12 election win, but is under fire from his own hardline camp, which has questioned his loyalty to the Supreme Leader. The announcement of Mr Ahmadinejad's landslide victory was met with a vast outpouring of anger with massive street protests and opposition complaints the vote was rigged. At least 30 people were killed and several thousand protesters rounded up, including prominent reform figures and journalists.

On Saturday, about 100 people were put on trial in a revolutionary court, a move slammed by the opposition which accused the authorities of torture but welcomed by hardliners who in turn accused Mr Mousavi and Mr Khatami with treason. Another 10 people went on trial on Sunday. Ayatollah Khamenei has strongly backed Mr Ahmadinejad and dismissed the vote-rigging allegations, accusing Western governments, Britain in particular, of instigating unrest.