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Page last updated at 06:26 GMT, Saturday, 23 May 2009 07:26 UK

Iran's Ahmadinejad rallies supporters

By Jon Leyne
BBC News, Tehran

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
A low turnout favours President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has begun the campaign for June's presidential election with a defiant speech against Iran's enemies.

Addressing a rally in the south of the capital, Tehran, President Ahmadinejad appealed to Iranian patriotism.

He compared Iran's enemies to "dogs", saying: "If you retreat, they attack; if you attack they retreat."

Mr Ahmadinejad's main opponent, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, has attacked the president's handling of the economy.

Already, on the first day of campaigning, the battle lines have been clearly drawn.

In contrast to President Ahmadinejad's defiant speech, Mr Mousavi used a television appearance to criticise the government for producing high inflation and high unemployment.

Later on Saturday Mr Mousavi is due to speak at a major rally in Tehran's main football stadium in an attempt to inspire a revival of the fervour that swept reformists to power in 1997.

The biggest challenge for those trying to unseat President Ahmadinejad is to overcome apathy and a widespread disillusionment with the political system.

The lower the turnout, the more likely Mr Ahmadinejad is to remain in power.



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