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Iran on the edge as citizens vote for new president

Iranians were Friday voting for a new president in an election that reformists hope to win with the conservatives riven by division, four years after the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Dozens of men and women, in separate queues, were seen outside polling stations as they opened at 8:00 am (0330 GMT).

More than 50.5 million people are eligible to vote for the man - no women candidates were approved - to succeed Ahmadinejad, who is barred from standing for a third consecutive term under the constitution.

At the same time as choosing a new president from six candidates, voters will also pick municipal councillors.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has called for a large turnout but ot publicly stated his preference for any single candidate, voted early.

‘Inshallah (God willing), the Iranian people will create a new political epic. I advise all people to vote,’ said the Iranian leader after casting his ballot.

He also attacked US criticism of the credibility of the presidential poll.

‘The hell with you... ‘ who do not agree with the way the election is being run, Khamenei said on national television. ‘The Iranian people... will do what is in their interest.’

His remarks were echoed by Ayatollah Ahmad Janati, head of the hardline Guardians Council electoral watchdog, who said voters ‘were poking their fingers in the eye of the enemy.’ If no candidate secures more than half of the votes to win outright on Friday, a second round will be held a week later. The first results are expected on Saturday.
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