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IRAN: Ahmadinejad urges Arabs to democratize even as his nation doesn't

July 12, 2011 |  7:18 am

Iran president

Some would consider it rather rich. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who got his post after a widely disputed election and serves under an unelected cleric whose powers are officially second only to God, encouraged Arab governments to heed their people's demands for reform.

"Today, the people of the region must enjoy equal rights, the right to vote, security and dignity, and no government can deprive them of freedom and justice or refuse their peoples' demands," Ahmadinejad said in a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday evening, according to the president's official website (in Persian).  "The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that all regional governments can run their countries by introducing reforms and realizing their peoples' demands." 

Iran, however, has been unsupportive of the uprising that has unsettled its ally, Syria. Even though Iranian media had reported that the unrest in Syria would top the agenda of the meeting, the presidential website's account made no mention of Syrian ruler Bashar Assad, whose violent suppression of a pro-democracy movement has left as many as 2,000 people dead, according to rights activists.

As the Syrian uprising against Assad's rule has gained momentum, Tehran has repeatedly dismissed the wave of protests as a creation of Western plots.

Ahmadinejad has accused the U.S. and its allies of stirring sectarian rivalries between the region's Sunnis and Shiites "to save the Zionist regime and improve their own economic systems."

Iran itself was a scene of widely attended protests after its 2009 presidential election, which the country's opposition accused the regime of rigging to give Ahmadinejad a second term.  

-- Roula Hajjar in Beirut

Photo: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, right, meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Tehran. Credit: Islamic Republic of Iran presidential website