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'Revolution' before 'democracy': Veteran warrior gets Iran's reins

TEHRAN -- The president-elect once said: ''We did not have a revolution in order to have democracy."

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began his quest for the office as a dark horse, then shocked the political establishment by breaking from the pack to capture second place in the preliminary vote. On Friday, he rolled to a stunning runoff victory over the former president, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Two years ago Ahmadinejad, 49, was a little-known figure in Iranian politics. Then he became Tehran's mayor, put there by the rigidly conservative city council.

He is a former Islamic Revolutionary Guard commander, unabashedly conservative and loyal to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He is seen by many who voted for him as one ready to stand up to the United States.

As a young student, Ahmadinejad joined an ultra conservative faction of the Office for Strengthening Unity, the radical student group spawned by the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which aided in the capture of the US Embassy. According to reports, Ahmadinejad attended planning meetings for the embassy takeover; he is reported to have lobbied for a simultaneous takeover of the Soviet Embassy.

The president-elect has said that he is in no hurry to re-establish relations with the United States, which cut diplomatic ties with Iran after the embassy takeover. ''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," Ahmadinejad said on his website. ''This decision will be made when Iran has the guarantee that its interests will be secure in any new relationship."

In an interview with the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, days before the preliminary vote, Amadinejad said the United Nations was ''one-sided, stacked against the world of Islam." He opposed the veto vote by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

''It is not just for a few states to sit and veto global approvals. Should such a privilege continue to exist, the Muslim world with a population of nearly 1.5 billion should be extended the same privilege," the Iranian broadcasting group quoted Ahmadinejad as saying. ''Global equations undergo changes, this is their nature, and today the Muslim world is the poorest of the global powers," he was quoted as saying.

In his first message to Iranians as president, Ahmadinejad spoke yesterday of making Iran a ''modern, advanced, powerful and Islamic" model for the world.

His brief radio address to the nation did not mention his views on the future of Iran's growing social freedoms.

''My mission is creating a role model of a modern, advanced, powerful and Islamic society," he said in the message broadcast shortly after the announcement of final results sealed his defeat of the self-proclaimed moderate Rafsanjani.

The results, announced on state television, gave Ahmadinejad 61.6 percent of the vote to Rafsanjani's 35.9 percent. The rest of the ballots were reported to be invalid.

Ahmadinejad graduated in civil engineering from Iran University of Science & Technology.

He is best known for his simple attire and unpolished style.

One of seven children, he was born to a middle-class family in Garmsar, a neighborhood southeast of Tehran. When Iraq invaded Iran, Ahmadinejad volunteered for military service, joined the Revolutionary Guards and was considered a daring soldier, participating in several military operations deep within Iraq, according to information posted on his Web site. With the war behind him, Ahmadinejad went into politics, was appointed governor first of Maku in northwestern Iran and later governor of the newly created province of Ardabil.

Two years ago, hard-liners installed him as Tehran's mayor.

After just two years as Tehran mayor, Ahmadinejad was nominated for World Mayor 2005, a British-based site aimed at raising the profile of mayors worldwide ''as well as to honor those who have served their communities," according to the site.

Of the 550 mayors nominated via e-mail, Ahmadinejad made it to a list of 65 mayors, of which only nine are from Asia. The finalists are apparently determined by the quality of the comments in the nominations.

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