Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, formally gave his blessing to incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for a second term on Monday. The ceremony comes two days before his formal inauguration, but many opposition figures and two former presidents boycotted the event.
The crowd of several hundred stood solemnly for Iran's national anthem at the opening of Monday's ceremony, in which Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei confirmed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for a second four-year term in office. He is due to be formally inaugurated in front of parliament on Wednesday.
Former presidents Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mahmoud Khatami did not attend the event, which was also boycotted by opposition leaders Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi. Parliament speaker Ali Larijani was, however, seated on the podium.
After the call to prayer, the crowd of several hundred attending the ceremony chanted in approval, as Mr. Ahmedinejad bowed to the Ayatollah, in respect, and kissed him on his shoulder. The Ayatollah appeared to rebuff an attempt by Mr. Ahmedinejad to kiss his hand.
Reports of friction between the two men surfaced recently, after the Ayatollah wrote a sternly worded letter demanding that Mr. Ahmadinejad withdraw the controversial choice of the father of his son-in-law, Esfandiar Rahim Meshai, as first vice president.
The choice also triggered an uproar from some of Mr. Ahmadinejad's hardline supporters.
During Monday's ceremony, Ayatollah Khamenei insisted on praising the outcome of Iran's disputed June 12th presidential election, which have resulted in weeks of popular and sometimes violent unrest, and charges of widespread vote-rigging. Mr. Ahmadinejad officially won 64% of the vote.
Looking stern, but determined, the Ayatollah also criticized Western nations, as he has done repeatedly, since the election, referring to them as the forces of "global arrogance" and "enemies of our state."
These nations, he insisted, were behind a "profound conspiracy to create strife…and poison the success of our great election." "But," he added, "through the grace of God and wisdom of our leaders, these plots were neutralized."
Mr. Ahmadinejad, for his part, also decried foreign powers' alleged interference in Iran's domestic affairs, going on to say, "the era when a number of bullying powers dictated their rules and attitudes to [other] nations is over, now."
The start of inauguration festivities for Mr. Ahmadinejad comes in the midst of the trials of top reformist leaders and activists by a revolutionary court in Tehran. Charges against them include violence, fomenting strife, and attempting to overthrow the government.
Sunday, defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi denounced the trials as "trumped up," and insisted that they merely pointed to the "moral collapse and discredit of [their] instigators."