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Iran's Ahmadinejad takes office

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.


Ali Khamenei

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has pronounced Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the country's new president.

Wednesday's ceremony is the first of two for the hardline conservative, who won a landslide victory in June elections against former two-term president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

On Saturday, Ahmadinejad officially takes the oath of office in a more traditional inauguration in the halls of parliament. He then has 15 days to name a cabinet.

At Wednesday's ceremony, Khamenei officially pronounced Ahmadinejad's presidency amid songs and prayers.

Afterwards Khamenei kissed the 48-year-old Ahmadinejad on the cheek before addressing his people as he formally took the office.

"I consider myself a servant of the people, a defender of Islam and its principles," Ahmadinejad said.

"I rely on your support, on your prayers, on the support of the elite, the spiritual leaders."

The man who formerly served as Tehran's mayor vowed to create a government that will fight corruption and promote justice for all, saying he plans action rather than words.

He also said he will work to reduce inflation and interest rates in Iran, and said he appreciated the work done by outgoing president Mohammed Khatami.

In his remarks Wednesday, Khamenei was harshly critical of the United States, saying its denouncement of Iran's presidential elections showed the "spirit of arrogance."

Shortly after his election, Ahmadinejad said his government would be one of "peace" and pledged to "cooperate with all other countries," vowing that "no extremism will be acceptable."

However, asked about the United States, which has no formal relations with Tehran, he said Iran has "no significant need for the United States."

He has defended Iran's stance on developing nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Washington has accused Tehran of operating a clandestine nuclear weapons program.

Britain, France and Germany have been negotiating with Iran on the issue, although the passage of a Monday deadline for the European countries to submit a proposal triggered a standoff.

Ahmadinejad advocated embracing the principles of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. He has won support from many vigilantes and popular militias, as well as poor residents.

He has said he wants to turn some cultural institutions, created in recent years, into mosques.

Following his election, some former hostages at the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979 said they believed Ahmadinejad may have been one of their captors.

Iranian officials, however, have denied Ahmadinejad was part of the November 4, 1979 takeover of the embassy, which flowed from a protest demanding the United States return the shah -- who had been overthrown by the Islamic revolution 11 months before and was receiving cancer treatment in New York -- to Tehran for trial.

Last week, a U.S. official told CNN that CIA analysis of a photograph of a hostage-taker at the embassy, taken around the time of the siege, determined the individual was not Ahmadinejad.

But the official said it had not been established whether Ahmadinejad had a role in the embassy takeover.

Journalist Shirzad Bozorgmehr contributed to this report.

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