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Page last updated at 01:26 GMT, Saturday, 13 June 2009 02:26 UK

US Iranians show poll passion

By Rajesh Mirchandani
BBC News, Los Angeles

In a hotel corridor in west Los Angeles three teenage girls were singing a song in Farsi while at least 100 people stood in line nearby.

Iranian voter Max Moghadam in Los Angeles
The biggest problem is Ahmadinejad himself. He has ruined the country
Max Moghadam, Iranian voter

It was a patriotic song that many recognised.

But the singers were not the only ones keen to make their voices heard.

This was one of three impromptu polling stations in hotels in Southern California where Iranians living in the US could vote in their country's presidential election.

And vote they did.

At the Los Angeles location, the queue averaged more than 100 all day and some waited for more than an hour.

Men and women, old and young. Some had never voted before.

One showed me official stamps on his ID document that indicated he had been a regular voter, both when he lived in Iran and abroad.

Iranians here have been energised by the campaign at home.

The singers, Iranians living in LA and studying at the city's UCLA campus, told me: "[There's] something about this election.

"Everyone's involved and everyone's passionate."

Another added: "[People] here in LA [see] that people in Iran are very passionate about this election and they're not being passive, they're being very active about it and they're getting the message across to the world.

"Iranians here feel they have a responsibility to support that and to be there for them."

Tehrangeles

The vast majority of voters said they would cast their ballot for Mir Hossein Mousavi, a former prime minister who is seen as a moderate.

Iranian voters in Los Angeles
Iranians queued at a Los Angeles hotel to vote

But it was less about his policies than about ousting sitting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Max Moghadam, 30, who grew up in Iran and moved to LA a few years ago, said: "Mousavi might not be the ideal, the best candidate, we know that. We don't expect a lot from Mousavi.

"But the biggest problem is Ahmadinejad himself.

"He has ruined the country... economically politically socially, internationally, domestically."

The last set of official figures suggested that at least 400,000 Iranians live in the US.

A more up-to-date tally would certainly put the figure much higher.

What's undisputed is that most call Southern California home.

Parts of west Los Angeles are nicknamed Tehrangeles - a mini-Tehran, dominated by Iranian shops and restaurants.

Many have been here for decades. Some are supporters of the Shah, Iran's monarch, replaced by Islamic revolutionaries in 1979.

A few staged a protest against the election, saying voting gave tacit approval to what they call an illegal regime.

But the turnout at 41 polling stations across the US suggests the majority of American Iranians are keenly involved.



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