- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 26, 2005

TEHRAN — Iran’s president-elect spoke yesterday of making the country a “modern, advanced, powerful and Islamic” model for the world, borrowing the style of the hard-line ruling clerics that backed him in his landslide victory.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s brief radio address to the nation did not mention his views on the future of Iran’s growing social freedoms, so liberal critics still fear the worst.

In an ironic twist, Iran’s first non-cleric to reach the country’s highest elected office since the 1979 Islamic Revolution was more religiously unyielding than the cleric he defeated, former President Hashemi Rafsanjani.

“My mission is creating a role model of a modern, advanced, powerful and Islamic society,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said in the message broadcast soon after the announcement of final results sealed his stunning defeat of the self-proclaimed moderate, Mr. Rafsanjani.

The victory gives hard-liners control of Iran’s two highest elected offices — the presidency and parliament.

In the results, announced on state television, Mr. Ahmadinejad received 61.6 percent of the vote to Mr. Rafsanjani’s 35.9 percent. The rest of the ballots were deemed invalid.

Turnout Friday among Iran’s approximately 47 million eligible voters was more than 59 percent. In the election June 17, the turnout was close to 63 percent.

The president-elect has said he is in no hurry to re-establish relations with the United States, which cut diplomatic ties with Iran after its embassy was besieged for 444 days and 52 employees were held hostage in 1979. As a student, Mr. Ahmadinejad joined a hard-line faction of the Office for Strengthening Unity, the radical student group that staged the embassy’s capture.

“The United States was free to cut its ties with Iran, but the Iranian government is free to decide about restarting its relationship with the United States, as well,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said on his Web site. “This decision will be made when Iran has the guarantee that its interests will be secure in any new relationship.”

Governments of Muslim countries offered cautious congratulations in response to the election, but several Western countries — including the United States — sharply criticized the vote yesterday. There were complaints that the candidates allowed to run for president were decided by the powerful Guardian Council, made up of clerics, who disqualified upwards of 1,000 contestants, including 50 women.

In Washington, White House spokeswoman Maria Tamburri said the United States was concerned about the fairness of the elections.

“We strongly support free and fair elections through which the Iranian people can express their will,” Miss Tamburri said. “We have expressed our clear concerns about the recent elections, where over 1,000 candidates were disqualified from running, and there were many allegations of election fraud and interference.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad, currently Tehran’s mayor, has not revealed the makeup of his Cabinet, but his deputy campaign manager said a 200-member team cobbled together during the presidential campaign has been poring over names and resumes.

“The only requirement is a willingness to serve the people,” said Abdulhasan Faqih, 32, a soft-spoken doctor who helped steer Mr. Ahmadinejad’s campaign.

Mr. Faqih said there would be no review of Iran’s nuclear policy.

“Our nuclear technology is homegrown, and no one will stop our nuclear development,” he said, but a military application of Iran’s nuclear development was not under consideration. The United States accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons, which Iran denies.

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s campaign headquarters, a modest two-story concrete house tucked away in a narrow alleyway in central Tehran, had the unassuming and humble appearance that reflected the image cultivated by the new president.

“God willing, things will be better with Ahmadinejad,” said Tala Shabani, a woman who works at a welfare organization in the city. “I’m the only one earning for my family. Ahmadinejad is a humble man. Let’s see what he can do.”

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