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Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,

former mayor of Teheran and a hard-line conservative, was elected president of Iran in a runoff election in June. Ahmadinejad was highly popular among Iran's rural poor, who responded to his pledge to fight corruption among the country's elites. Unlike his predecessor, Mohammed Khatami, who frequently clashed with the country's supreme leader over reform, Ahmadinejad is a devout follower of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Ahmadinejad has announced plans to continue pursuing Iran's controversial nuclear program and has stated that “our nation . . . has no significant need for the United States.” He sparked international outrage in October, when he says Israel should be “wiped off the map.” He continued his inflammatory comments in December, saying of Israelis, “'Today, they have created a myth in the name of Holocaust and consider it to be above God, religion and the prophets.”


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