Clashes erupt after Iranian poll debate

Supporters and opponents of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad clashed in a Tehran square on Saturday evening.

Clashes erupt after Iranian poll debate
Supporters and opponents of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad clashed in a Tehran square on Saturday evening and some cars were set on fire, a witness said, ahead of the June 12 election.

The incident took place as rival supporters followed a televised debate between Ahmadinejad and his challenger Mehdi Karoubi on big screens at Sarv square in northwestern Tehran, the witness told Reuters.

It was the second night of sporadic unrest in the capital, after thousands of supporters of Ahmadinejad and another of his challengers in the presidential election scuffled elsewhere in the capital on Friday evening.

Mainly young supporters of the election hopefuls have poured into the streets of Tehran during evenings as the election approaches, shouting, honking car horns and waving pictures of their candidates. At times, traffic has ground to a standstill.

With more than 60 percent of Iranians under the age of 30, their votes will be crucial.

Ahmadinejad is being challenged by Karoubi, former Prime Minister Mirhossein Mousavi, and the conservative former head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, Mohsen Rezaie.

Mousavi is seen as Ahmadinejad's main opponent in the election.

In a heated debate, Ahmadinejad and Karoubicountered accusations on issues ranging from the economy of the world's fifth-largest oil exporter to Iran's foreign relations.

Ahmadinejad hit back at critics accusing him of stoking inflation with profligate spending of petrodollars since he came to office in 2005, saying the rate was declining and would soon fall below 10 percent, compared with 18 percent in March.

Ahmadinejad also said economic growth and unemployment statistics compared favourable with those of previous governments. He challenged his opponents to make public their income and wealth, saying he had nothing to hide.

"People are aware of the realities ... when they purchase meat they will feel inflation," said Karoubi, a cleric and former parliamentary speaker.


Reuters
Güncelleme Tarihi: 07 Haziran 2009, 19:07
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