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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 June, 2005, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
Few clues for West on Iran's future
By Jonathan Marcus
BBC diplomatic correspondent

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Mr Ahmadinejad waged a domestically-focused campaign
The surprise victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the Iranian presidential election means that religious conservatives now have a monopoly on power controlling all of the elected and appointed institutions that govern the country.

But what does Mr Ahmadinejad's victory mean beyond Iran's own borders and what does it imply for European Union-led efforts to halt Iran's nuclear enrichment programme?

The new president has had little or no experience in foreign policy matters.

He waged a domestically orientated populist campaign focusing on poverty, social justice and the distribution of wealth inside Iran.

He did make it clear that he would fight for Iran's right to enrich uranium for a civil nuclear power programme, but this has become almost a nationalist credo on the part of many Iranians who feel that the international community is trying to deny their country a capability enjoyed by many others.

So in this sense the outside world has little to go on. Indeed how this election outcome is assessed depends very much on the expectations held when the campaign began.

Hopes on Rafsanjani

US President George W Bush dismissed the election out of hand before a single vote was cast.

Despite offering diplomatic support to the EU effort to negotiate away Iran's nuclear programme, many in Washington still believe that Iran is bent on developing nuclear weapons.

This school of thought may paradoxically welcome Mr Ahmadinejad's victory since it may clarify the Iranian position.

But in many European capitals, hopes had been pinned on the man Mr Ahmadinejad defeated, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

He was seen as potentially a more moderate figure who might open the way to a rapprochement between Iran and the US.

Either way Iran's next diplomatic steps are going to be watched very closely, not just in the US and Europe, but also in Iraq where the Tehran government remains an important regional player.


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Footage of the new president of Iran



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