Iran General NewsOpponents highlight Ahmadinejad eccentricity

Opponents highlight Ahmadinejad eccentricity

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ImageAP: A 2005 claim by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that a "light" surrounded him during a U.N. address was mocked Monday by his main pro-reform opponents in the latest barrage against the president's competence and another sign of the bitter tone dominating the election campaign in its final days.

The Associated Press

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI

ImageTEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A 2005 claim by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that a "light" surrounded him during a U.N. address was mocked Monday by his main pro-reform opponents in the latest barrage against the president's competence and another sign of the bitter tone dominating the election campaign in its final days.

Ahmadinejad and his main challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, have traded recriminations and engaged in mudslinging that has broken political taboos in Iran, reflecting the huge stakes in Friday's vote.

Reformists — sensing that Ahmadinejad's once-formidable lead has evaporated — have increased their attacks seeking to portray him has erratic and eccentric. Ahmadinejad has struck back with accusations that Mousavi, who served as prime minister in the 1980s, is part of a clique of corrupt leaders who put their own interests ahead of the country.

The current reformist salvo is a video clip sent by e-mail and on CDs of Ahmadinejad telling a top cleric, Ayatollah Abdollah Javadi Amoli, that a "light" enveloped him during his address to the U.N. General Assembly in 2005 and that the crowd stared without blinking during the entire speech.

"A member of the (Iranian) delegation told me, 'I saw a light that surrounded you,'" Ahmadinejad said. "I sensed it myself too … I felt the atmosphere changed. All leaders in audience didn't blink for 27, 28 minutes. I'm not exaggerating when I'm saying they didn't blink. Everybody had been astonished … they had opened their eyes and ears to see what is the message from the Islamic Republic."

The clip was released after Ahmadinejad on Saturday denied making the comment.

Mousavi's daily newspaper, Kalemeh Sabz, or Green Word, said in a front-page report that Amoli's office confirmed the video is authentic. The headline called it Ahmadinejad's "halo." Amoli could not be reached to verify the account in the Mousavi paper.

Mousavi accused Ahmadinejad of being "superstitious" and "brazenly staring at the camera and telling lies to the nation."

On Saturday, Ahmadinejad said inflation stood at 15 percent, but Mousavi showed a report released by the Central Bank of Iran indicating it stood at 25 percent.

"Why do we lie to people? Why do we give people wrong information? Is this to the country's benefit? Is gaining the presidential chair worth lying to people this blatantly?" Mousavi said on Sunday.

Reformists, who promise to ease social and political restrictions at home and seek better ties with the West, appear to be gaining ground on Ahmadinejad, who has become increasingly unpopular because of Iran's economic woes. Critics also say he has needlessly enflamed world anger at Iran with his statements calling U.N. resolutions "worthless papers" and casting doubt on the Holocaust.

There are two other candidates in the race. Former parliament speaker Mahdi Karroubi, who is considered a moderate, could siphon some votes from Mousavi. Mohsen Rezaei, a former commander of the powerful Revolutionary Guard, threatens to undercut Ahmadinejad's conservative base.

Ahmadinejad's comments also have become the source of political satire that takes aim at his pious reputation among his supporters.

"Have you seen a halo in your addresses?" former vice president, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, asked Karroubi during a documentary shown on state TV last week.

"Only certain people can see that. I don't have this spiritual status," Karroubi replied.

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