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Ahmadinejad hails controversial victory, despite protests

Street clashes between security forces and supporters of challenger Mousavi picked up after dark on Sunday after President Ahmadinejad addressed thousands of his supporters in Tehran.

By Staff writer / June 14, 2009

A woman cries with joy as she and thousands of other supporters listened to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during a victory rally in Tehran on Sunday.

Scott Peterson / Getty Images

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Tehran, Iran

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began to consolidate his controversial reelection victory on Sunday, as violent protests wracked Tehran for a second day and the defeated challenger called for results to be annulled.

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As street clashes picked up after dark between riot police and supporters of Mir Hussein Mousavi – the former prime minister who won just half the votes of Ahmadinejad, according to official figures – a new protest began to gather pace.

Iranians from the street – and then an increasing number from the windows and rooftops of their apartment buildings – shouted "God is Great!" and "Death to the dictator!" long into the night.

That protest signified the depth of anger over the surprise election result. The same tactic was used in Iran 30 years ago to show popular displeasure with the pro-West Shah Reza Pahlavi before he was overthrown by the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

"It's all spontaneous, and that's a negative, [because] all things without a leader will go down," said a veteran analyst after a walk on the streets. Mr. Mousavi has not appeared in public since voting day on Friday, though in a Web statement on Sunday he said: "I urge you, Iranian nation, to continue your nationwide protests in a peaceful and legal way."

Regime moves quickly to quell unrest

The regime's swift effort to declare Mr. Ahmadinejad the victor, with the supreme religious leader Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei accepting the results as "divine" after one day instead of the customary three, means they "want to wrap it up quickly," says the analyst, who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

"People talk about a coup d'etat," said a Tehran engineer of the result. "If [Ahmadinejad] really won the vote, why are there so many riots? Why are there so many riot police? Why are they on such a high alert?"

Yet Ahmadinejad said on Sunday the result was unassailable. "Nearly 40 million people took part in a totally free election," which he called a the "most glorious voting in recent history."

Iranians, he said, had been subjected to "extensive psychological warfare" by foreign media, who mistook the mass outpouring of support for the moderate Mousavi in the streets before the vote as a sign that Ahmadinejad would lose — a result predicted by a number of polls, including reportedly a secret one conducted by the government.

Ahmadinejad: protests 'not important'

Ahmadinejad said Iranians were not fooled, and the "epic achievement" of the vote "delivered a mighty blow" against the West.

He dismissed the post-election violence that erupted across Tehran with burning barricades and beatings by security forces as "not important" and said the "government will be patient.

"Some believed they would win, and then they got angry," Ahmadinejad said. "It has no legal credibility. It is like the passions after a football match.... The margin between my votes and the others is too much and no one can question it."

But many Iranians did question the unlikely result, beginning Saturday afternoon when it was declared. Among the surprises: Mousavi lost to Ahmadinejad in his hometown and ethnic Azeri heartland; reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi lost in his ethnic Lur home province and scored only a minuscule number of votes nationwide; and Ahmadinejad won Tehran and many other urban centers, where he has long been considered to have less support than rural areas.

Still, the complaints by Mousavi and Mr. Karroubi about the result "has not been very strong," says the analyst. "There have been no documents, no details. They said cancel the election, but based on what?"

"Don't worry about us," Ahmadinejad said on Sunday, chastising a British journalist during the press conference for doubting the outcome. "Freedom prevails absolutely in our country – whatever they want, they say."

Opposition politicians detained during night of clashes

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