Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was sworn in as Iran’s President on Wednesday, state radio reported, after a disputed re-election that has exposed a deep schism in the Islamic Republic’s clerical establishment.
Despite intense political feuding, Ahmadinejad will take his oath of office before parliament and then has two weeks to present a cabinet to the conservative-dominated assembly for approval.
Opposition websites said that the supporters of Ahmadinejad’s main rival, the moderate Mirhossein Mousavi, were planning to protest against the swearing-in ceremony.
A witness reported seeing hundreds of Mousavi supporters walking around the parliament building despite a heavy presence of riot police and Basij militia.
“But there is no clash,” the witness said adding: “Mobile phones have been cut off.”
The vote, which leading moderates say was rigged to secure Ahmadinejad’s re-election, sparked Iran’s worst unrest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The authorities say the vote was the healthiest election since the revolution.
US President Barack Obama and leaders of France, Britain, Italy and Germany have all decided not to congratulate Ahmadinejad on his re-election.
But when asked whether Obama recognised Ahmadinejad as Iran’s President, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said: “He’s the elected leader.”
Mousavi and fellow defeated moderate candidate Mehdi Karoubi reject the new government as illegitimate, defying Iran’s most powerful figure, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who backed the election result and endorsed Ahmadinejad.
At a ceremony on Monday, Khamenei described Ahmadinejad as courageous, hardworking and wise.
Leading moderates, including former presidents Mohammad Khatami and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, were absent from the ceremony and hundreds of Mousavi supporters gathered at several Tehran squares but were dispersed by riot police.
At least 20 people have been killed since the 12 June election and hundreds have been arrested.
At a mass trial on Saturday more than 100 reformists, including several prominent figures, faced charges like acting against national security by fomenting post-election unrest.
The next session of the trial, denounced as a show trial by Khatami and Mousavi, will be held on Thursday.
Ahmadinejad came under pressure from his hardline allies over his initial choice of first vice-president. He delayed for a week before obeying Khamenei’s order to dismiss Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaie.
The disarray over Mashaie could complicate the president’s choice of a new cabinet to present to Parliament, which may object if he names only members of his inner circle.
Tehran’s diplomatic relations with the rest of the world are determined by the country’s paramount authority Khamenei.
Iran accuses the west, particularly the US and Britain, of having fomented election unrest in the country to try and topple the clerical establishment. Western countries deny the charge.
No change in foreign policy means no change in the standoff between Iran and the west over the country’s nuclear programme, which the US and its European allies suspect is a front to build weapons, something Iran denies.