Monday 21 January 2019

Fresh protests rock Iran as leader rages at West's snub

Damien McElroy in Tehran

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lambasted world leaders for snubbing his inauguration as president of Iran for a second term yesterday as violence returned to the streets of Tehran.

The United States refused to send Mr Ahmadinejad a customary note to congratulate him for his controversial victory in June's election, although it stopped short of refusing to recognise him as Iran's president.

Britain, France and Germany followed suit.

Visibly angered by the slight, Mr Ahmadinejad struck a defiant note despite hundreds of protesters chanting "death to the dictator" almost within earshot.

"We heard that some of the western leaders have decided to recognise but not congratulate the new government," Mr Ahmadinejad said in an acceptance speech before the Iranian parliament.

"Well, no one in Iran is waiting for your messages. The Iranian nation neither values your scowls and threats, nor your smiles and greetings."

Fearful of giving renewed impetus to the protests that rocked the country after the election, the Iranian authorities placed Tehran in virtual lockdown. Mobile phone transmissions were blocked, while over 1,000 Basij militiamen patrolled the streets on motorcycles.

They were bolstered by over 6,000 riot policemen.

Even so, several hundred Iranians braved the atmosphere of intimidation. They were met with salvoes of choking pepper gas and many were arrested.

Resistance

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, spoke during a trip to Africa of her admiration for the resistance to Mr Ahmadinejad.

The British Foreign Office, however, took a more unusual approach by sending Britain's ambassador to Tehran to the inauguration ceremony.

Most western envoys stayed away, with only France and Sweden following Britain's lead.

Mr Ahmadinejad reserved a portion of his ire for his domestic opponents. In an ominous threat, he said his government would "resist any violation of the law" by opposition supporters. Inside the parliament about 50 of the 290 MPs' seats were empty, as Mr Ahmadinejad pledged, as part of the oath of office, not to be autocratic.

Also conspicuous by their absence were the defeated presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karoubi and Mohsen Rezaie, the former presidents Mohammad Khatami and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and relatives of Ayatollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic.

Like most western diplomats, dozens of reformist MPs stayed away from the swearing-in ceremony.

Only 13 moderates appeared, but later walked out in concert. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

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