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Today's Top News
Ahmadinejad Wins Surprise Iran Landslide Victory
Challenger Mousavi claims fraud after record 84% turnout • Tense scenes in Tehran with riot police on streets
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has won a crushing victory in Iran's landmark presidential election, according to the country's authorities, but his moderate challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi has warned of "tyranny" and protested that the result was rigged after a record turnout of 84%.
Mousavi appealed directly to the regime's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as baton-wielding riot police dispersed angry supporters outside his Tehran headquarters today.
"I personally strongly protest the many obvious violations and I'm warning I will not surrender to this dangerous charade," said Mousavi. "The result of such performance by some officials will jeopardise the pillars of the Islamic Republic and will establish tyranny."
As news of the official result sank in, the capital was quiet but tense. Riot police gathered around key government buildings, and mobile phone text messaging was blocked. International news websites – including the Guardian and the BBC – as well as pro-Mousavi websites were blocked or difficult to access.
"The election was a game and full of lies," shouted one protester. "We can not do anything here," said another. "We can not believe the results and they are unacceptable."
Mousavi, a former prime minister, had been widely expected to trounce the controversial incumbent, or at least do well enough to trigger a run-off. He claimed victory in an apparent attempt to pre-empt his rival.
But as the votes were still being counted late on Friday, aides to Ahmadinejad announced that he had won by an "unassailable" margin after polling stations stayed open four extra hours to meet the huge demand.
The interior ministry said this morning that Ahmadinejad had won a crushing victory of 63.3% to 34.7% with most of the votes counted, though the final official result was temporarily put on hold.
Even in Mousavi's hometown province of Tabriz in north-west Iran, the ministry claimed Ahmadinejad received more than 60% of the vote.
Early editions of Mousavi's paper Kalemeh Sabz, or the Green Word, and other reformist dailies declared Mousavi the victor but were ordered to change their headlines, local journalists said. The papers had blank spots where articles were removed.
The outcome seems a grave setback to hopes for a solution to the looming international crisis over Iran's nuclear ambitions and for détente with the US in response to Barack Obama's overtures. Israel quickly demanded efforts to stop Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.
"It doesn't augur well for an early and peaceful settlement of the nuclear dispute," said Mark Fitzpatrick at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies.
If the result stands it will spell an end to hopes for the greater freedoms and economic competence Mousavi had promised Iran's 72 million people. At times the election campaign seemed like a referendum on Ahmadinejad's four-year term.
The high turnout underscored the stakes domestically. Mousavi's slick campaign galvanised an apathetic electorate and raised hopes of a more stable economy and increased liberty at home as well as better relations abroad.
Supporters had hoped Mousavi could have a similarly positive effect to Mohammad Khatami, who ushered in a period of change that ended when Ahmadinejad came from nowhere to capture the presidency four years ago.
Trita Parsi, the president of the Washington-based National Iranian American Council, expressed disbelief at the wide margin in Ahmadinejad's favour. "It is difficult to feel comfortable that this occurred without any cheating," Parsi told Reuters.
Ali Ansari, who heads the Institute for Iranian Studies at St Andrews University in Scotland, warned: "The potential for unrest is high."
As three weeks of often passionate campaigning drew to a close on Wednesday, the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) issued an ominous warning that any attempt at a popular "revolution" would be crushed.