Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Israel news photo: (file)

Incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was sworn in Wednesday for a second term as the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Ahmadinejad swore "before the holy Koran and the Iranian nation and G-d to be the guardian of the official religion, the Islamic Republic and the constitution" during the ceremony, which was boycotted by leading moderates, including former presidents

We heard that some of the Western leaders had decided to recognize but not congratulate the new government ... Well, no one in Iran is waiting for your messages.

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami.

In a striking move, the leaders of the United States, France, Britain, Italy and Germany all chose not to congratulate Ahmadinejad on his re-election or inauguration. However, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs acknowledged, "He's the elected leader," when asked whether President Barack Hussein Obama would recognize Ahmadinejad as Iran's president.

Following the swearing-in ceremony, Ahmadinejad responded to the news in a speech to the parliament. "We heard that some of the Western leaders had decided to recognize but not congratulate the new government ... Well, no one in Iran is waiting for your messages," he said. 

Ahmadinejad has two weeks in which to form and present a new cabinet to the predominantly Conservative parliament for its stamp of approval. However, it is likely there will be few changes in Iran's foreign policy, which is determined by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini. The country's drive toward nuclear capability, which the West and Israel believe is aimed at the creation of a nuclear weapon, is also controlled largely by Khameini.

Hundreds of police and special forces were deployed around the parliament building, and a nearby subway station was closed to the public.

Ahmadinejad's election to office was disputed by the opposition, which claims he stole the June 12 vote with irregularities at polls around the country. Moderates said the elections were rigged. But Ahmadinejad was backed by the powerful Supreme Leader, who described him on Monday as "courageous, hardworking and wise."

Opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and fellow defeated moderate candidate Mehdi Karoubi have both rejected Ahmadinejad's new government, calling it illegitimate.

Hundreds of protestors gathered at the parliament building, where the inauguration took place and in various squares around Tehran but were dispersed by riot police. "Mobile phones were cut off," said one witness quoted by The New York Times.

The state has routinely jammed cell phones and computers to disrupt protestors' ability to organize and demonstrate over the past several months.

A groundswell of outrage followed the Interior Ministry's announcement of the lopsided results which proclaimed a landslide victory for Ahmadinejad. The announcement led to weeks of massive demonstrations in Tehran and elsewhere, touching off a tinderbox that rivaled that of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Ahmadinejad's special Basij forces brutally put down the uprising, hunting down, clubbing and shooting demonstrators for days. During the protests, water cannons and tear gas were also employed against demonstrators. At least 30 people were killed, and dozens more were wounded in the clashes. Hundreds have been arrested since the uprising began.

Nevertheless, the National Council of Resistance of Iran issued a statement Wednesday affirming the protests against the inauguration "for the 52nd day of the nationwide uprising."

The statement, posted on the website of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran, noted, "With chants of 'Death to dictator,' they demanded the overthrow of the entire absolute clerical rule... clashes were sparked between the people and suppressive forces at Vanak Square, which were still continuing until the time of reporting." Clashes were described at five other protest locations as well. (Israel news photo: courtesy of People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran)