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Iran will hold a landmark presidential election today amid warnings of violence if the vote is rigged to secure President Ahmadinejad’s return.
As the most tumultuous campaign in the Islamic Republic’s 30-year history drew to a close, Mir Hossein Mousavi, the incumbent’s strongest challenger, appealed to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Iranian Supreme Leader, to ensure that the election was fair.
Those close to Mr Mousavi went further, claiming that Mr Ahmadinejad could win only by cheating — and that this could spark riots and chaos on the streets.
Saeed Laylaz, a political consultant, said he feared a “Tiananmen Square-style experience”, with the military moving in to crush any protests.
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's interior ministry said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad moved into a strong lead Friday with nearly 70 percent of the votes tallied so far, but his pro-reform rival countered that he has clearly won and warned of possible vote fraud. The dispute rose up even before polls closed early Saturday, heightening tensions across the capital where emotions have been running at a fever pitch. Mir Hossein Mousavi, the reformist candidate, suggested he might challenge the results. The messy and tense outcome capped a long day of voting — extended for six hours to accommodate a huge turnout. It raised worries that Iran's Islamic establishment could use its vast powers to pressure backers of Mousavi
Dr Ahmadinejad has taken a strong lead in his bid to be re-elected as Iran's president, chalking up 67 per cent of the vote with nearly half the ballot boxes counted, said Kamran Daneshjoo, chairman of the electoral commission at the interior ministry.
But reformist former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi has already claimed a landslide win despite conflicting reports.
"In line with the information we have received, I am the winner of this election by a substantial margin," Mr Mousavi told a news conference.
With 47 per cent of total boxes counted, amounting to over 15.2 million votes, Dr Ahmadinejad received over 10.2 million votes, or 67 per cent of the total.
That compared with 4.6 million, or 30.3 per cent for Mr Mousavi, the electoral commission said.
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian police broke up a crowd of several hundred supporters of moderate presidential candidate Mirhossein Mousavi in a Tehran square early on Saturday, a Reuters witness said.
The incident took place after the election commission said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had a strong lead over Mousavi in early counting of votes from Friday's presidential election. Mousavi earlier said he had won the election.