Conservative Ahmadinejad becomes Iran’s president

  • Reuters - By Parisa Hafezi
  • 03/08/2005 00:00:00

TEHRAN, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became Iran’s new president on Wednesday, taking office amid international turmoil over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and his own past.

The 48-year-old conservative former mayor of Tehran, deeply loyal to the values of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, won a landslide election victory in June and was appointed president by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"I therefore ... approve the vote of the nation and appoint Dr Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran," said a text by Khamenei read out at an official ceremony by outgoing reformist President Mohammad Khatami.

Ahmadinejad was warmly embraced by the leader before reaffirming his pledge to fight for the common man.

"As a servant of the republic and a drop in the endless ocean of the Iranian nation ... I commit myself to respond to the trust and hopes of such a nation by serving them honestly," he told Iran’s leading figures assembled at his investiture.

Khamenei leant over to congratulate the new president on his speech: "Bravo, really good."

The president in Iran appoints ministers who manage the day-to-day business of government. But the government’s power is checked by a number of unelected bodies answerable to Khamenei, the most powerful figure in Iran who is appointed for life.

Ahmadinejad takes an oath of office at a further ceremony on Saturday at which he is due to announce his cabinet.

TOUGH EARLY DAYS

Ahmadinejad takes over the government as Iran edges closer to possible U.N. Security Council sanctions over its nuclear programme, which Washington says is a smokescreen for building atomic bombs. Tehran insists its ambitions are peaceful.

Ahmadinejad made no specific mention of the nuclear issue, but said: "Elements of global threat including weapons of mass destruction, chemical and biological, which are now in the hands of the hegemony must be eradicated."

In order to break this impasse, EU diplomats have been trying to get Iran to surrender its nuclear fuel work in return for economic incentives.

But Iran says such a compromise is unacceptable and a spokesman said it hopes to resume nuclear fuel work on Wednesday, a move that threatens to end EU mediation.

In Iran’s opaque political system, analysts are split on whether top policy makers are somehow setting the stage for Ahmadinejad to save the day with a new deal or whether he is subservient to their greater national goals.

If this mounting international pressure on the nuclear programme was not enough, Ahmadinejad also faces numerous accusations about his past.

The United States thinks he played a key role in the storming of its embassy in Tehran after the revolution, something which he and those who took part deny.

Austrian investigators are looking into whether he was involved in the murder of Kurdish dissidents in Vienna in 1989. Again, his aides deny the charges.

Ahmadinejad also faces massive economic challenges in a country where growth is slipping and oilfields, the country’s lifeblood, are losing capacity.

The victory of the former Revolutionary Guard sent ripples of fear through the investment community, compounded when he said he would clean out corruption in the oil industry and give no preferential treatment to foreign firms.

But analysts say investors should take a "wait and see" approach, arguing that Ahmadinejad took a pragmatic line as mayor of Tehran and could well do so again as president.

Reuters

  • Reuters - By Parisa Hafezi
  • 03/08/2005 00:00:00