TEHRAN, Iran — Two years ago Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a little-known Iranian political figure. Then he became Tehran’s mayor. Friday, he finished second in the presidential election, winning a spot in next week’s runoff for the presidency.
A former Islamic Revolutionary Guard commander in the Iran-Iraq war, Ahmadinejad is unabashedly conservative and loyal to Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“We did not have a revolution in order to have democracy,” he has said.
He is also seen by many who voted for him as someone ready to stand up to the United States.
“I picked Ahmadinejad to slap America in the face,” Mahdi Mirmalek said after voting for the Tehran mayor.
As a student, Ahmadinejad joined an ultraconservative faction of the Office for Strengthening Unity, the radical student group spawned by the 1979 Islamic Revolution that staged the capture of the U.S. Embassy.
United Nations slammed
According to reports, Ahmadinejad attended planning meetings for the U.S. Embassy takeover and lobbied for a simultaneous takeover of the Soviet Embassy.
In an interview with the state run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting days before Friday’s elections, Ahmadinejad slammed the United Nations as “one-sided, stacked against the world of Islam.”
He said it is wrong for only five nations — the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — to have a veto vote. “The Muslim world with a population of nearly 1.5 billion should be extended the same privilege,” Ahmadinejad said.
He defended Iran’s nuclear power program and accused “a few arrogant powers,” a reference meant to include the United States, of seeking to limit Iran’s industrial and technological development.
Ahmadinejad has a degree in civil engineering and 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.
World Mayor 2005 finalist
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 U.K.-based group that seeks to raise the profile of mayors worldwide “as well as to honor those who have served their communities”, according to the group’s Web site.
Of the 550 mayors nominated via e-mail, Ahmadinejad was among 65 finalists, of which only nine are from Asia. The finalists are apparently determined by the quality of the comments attached to the nominations.
New York’s Michael Bloomberg is on the list of finalists.
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