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Ahmadinejad holds first meeting of new government

Society Materials 7 September 2009 07:03 (UTC +04:00)
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad held the first meeting of his new government on Sunday, shoring up his political position despite accusations by a leading reformer of a "fascist" approach by Iranian hardliners.
Ahmadinejad holds first meeting of new government

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad held the first meeting of his new government on Sunday, shoring up his political position despite accusations by a leading reformer of a "fascist" approach by Iranian hardliners, Reuters reported.

Ahmadinejad, holding the meeting after nearly three months of political turmoil following his disputed re-election, said the government was determined to improve services to the public, state television said.

Earlier on Sunday hard-hitting criticism of hardliners by former President Mohammad Khatami suggested the moderate opposition would try to keep up protests over an election it says was rigged.

"We believe they destroyed in this election the biggest opportunity that had come about for the Islamic establishment and the country," Khatami said in a meeting with university professors in Tehran, the ILNA news agency reported.

"We are opposed to the interpretation of religion by those who in the name of confronting Western liberalism want to drive people by force on to the path they regard as prosperous using a fascist or totalitarian approach," he said.

The presidential poll, which was followed by huge opposition demonstrations, plunged Iran into its deepest internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution and exposed rifts within its ruling clerical and political elites.

The authorities reject charges the vote was fraudulent

Parliament approved most of Ahmadinejad's government ministers three days ago, followed up by the meeting late on Sunday in the northeastern city of Mashhad, site of Shi'ite Iran's holiest shrine.

Authorities have portrayed the protests as a Western-backed bid to undermine the Islamic state and have begun mass trials of senior reformists, including Khatami allies.

The elite Revolutionary Guards and a pro-government Islamic militia put down the post-election street protests. The opposition says 72 people were killed in the violence, nearly three times the official estimate.

RELIGIOUS CEREMONY CANCELLED

Khatami said the election had been an "opportunity to have the youth and people who were dissatisfied ... to return to the scene and make the right choice with hope in the establishment and the future."

Khatami, who was president from 1997-2005, backed opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi in the vote. The Guards have called for both of them to be put on trial.

Another leading reformist criticized the cancellation of an annual religious ceremony where Khatami had been due to speak and which could have become a rallying point for moderates.

Iranian media said the September 9-11 event was called off after the authorities put pressure on its hosts.

"The cancellation of the ceremonies at Imam Khomeini's shrine will hurt the prestige of the Islamic Republic," said Mohammad Salamati, head of the moderate Islamic Revolution Mujahideen Organization party, ILNA reported.

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