Ahmadinejad defiant as he takes oath

As police prevent protesters from assembling at parliament, the Iranian president scoffs at the West and vows to maintain his foreign policies.

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TEHRAN // Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who took an oath of office before the Iranian parliament yesterday, said he was not awaiting recognition or congratulations from western powers on his disputed re-election. Thousands of riot police, meanwhile, prevented demonstrators from gathering outside parliament, and the defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi vowed that the opposition movement will not be deterred by arrests.

Germany, the United States, France and the United Kingdom have announced they will recognise the new Iranian government, but will not send congratulatory messages to Mr Ahmadinejad. "We heard that some of the western leaders had decided to recognise but not congratulate the new government. Well, no one in Iran is waiting for your messages," Mr Ahmadinejad said in a speech to the parliament, his first address as the country's 10th president. "Iranians will neither value your scowling and bullying nor will they pay attention to your smiles and greetings.

"The clear messages conveyed by such an attitude is that they only value democracy when it is at their own service. They do not respect the votes and the rights of the nations," he said. "We will resist oppressors and try to correct the global discriminatory mechanisms in order to benefit all the nations of the world." Mr Ahmadinejad also vowed to continue the foreign policies his government had adopted in its first term.

While stressing that his government would not tolerate "rudeness, intervention and insults", the Iranian president said it would continue its efforts to reform the "global discriminatory mechanisms" in order to benefit all the nations of the world. On Tuesday, the White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters: "I don't have any reason to believe we will send any letter [to congratulate the Iranian president]."

The spokesmen for the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel had made similar announcements prior to Mr Ahmadinejad's swearing in ceremony. The ambassadors of some European countries shunned the ceremony at the parliament but the ambassador of Sweden, which has the presidency of the European Union, and lower-ranking diplomats from some other European countries, including Britain and France, were present.

The ceremony was boycotted by the majority of reformists, most of whom had announced beforehand that they would not attend the ceremony in protest over alleged election irregularities and the treatment of protesters in the post-election unrest. Only 13 members of the 70-strong reformist faction of the parliament, not including any of the members of the faction's presiding board, attended the ceremony, Parleman News (the official website of the minority reformist faction of the parliament) reported.

The Iranian parliament has 290 members. Some other high-ranking state officials, most notably Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the chairman of the Expediency Council and Assembly of Experts, and the former president Seyed Mohammad Khatami were also absent at the ceremony. Both of them had refused to attend the endorsement ceremony at the supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei's compound on Monday, too. Mr Ahmadinejad arrived at the Iranian parliament in downtown Tehran by helicopter amid huge security measures as opposition protesters tried to gather in front of the parliament in protest against what they allege was a fraudulent election.

Riot police and Basij volunteer Islamic militiamen whose numbers were reported at about 5,000 by Parleman News, the news portal of the minority reformist faction in parliament, used tear gas on demonstrators, witnesses said. Protesters chanted "death to the dictator" and other anti-Ahmadinejad slogans, booing the security forces as police and Basij moved in to disperse them, a witness said, while several were reportedly arrested.

Supporters of the defeated candidates in the disputed June 12 elections in, which Mr Ahmadinejad won by a majority of 24 million votes, have repeatedly taken to the streets to protest what they call a fraudulent election and have demanded its annulment. Mr Mousavi said yesterday that arrests of protesters will not stop the opposition movement opposing the re-election of Mr Ahmadinejad. "I noticed the birth of a strong national feeling during the course of the election ? which has united different groups of society," Mr Mousavi said on his website Ghalamnews.

"Some thought that by arresting several people who they believe are protest leaders, the whole question will be finished," he said in a statement posted just hours after Mr Ahmadinejad was sworn in. "But the fact is that this movement has stayed alive, showing that the arrests will not be effective." Mr Ahmadinejad has two weeks to present his cabinet to the parliament for a vote of confidence. msinaiee@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse